That India is a veritable gold mine when it comes to traditional art forms is not news to those of us who’ve grown up with it all around us in some way or the other. Whether it be terracotta sculptures that adorn our gardens or bandhej duppattas that add colour to our wardrobe, we are well aware of the rich influence that these arts and crafts have on everyday life today. But what if we told you that some of these art forms need not be only admired in exhibitions and galleries; you can also make them yourself with little or no formal training at all.

It’s no disputing the fact that National Crafts Museum is the largest and one of the few legible authorities of arts and crafts of India. In fact, with its research facilities and retail outlets, it’s not just an exhibition gallery. Indeed, a visit to the Museum would be a revelation for every Indian as it houses several traditional craftsmen, often spotted there working studiously, poring over their work alongside their finished pieces which are available for sale.

And while a visit to the National Crafts Museum may not always be feasible {or within our budget}, here are some of the crafts you can learn there and try at home yourself.

Sanjhi Painting/Paper Art

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Photo source: IGNCA

An intricate form of painting originating from the land of Krishna {Mathura, Uttar Pradesh}, this highly delicate artwork can take days to complete. The intricate and delicate designs on paper are made with cuts from a pair of scissors or a blade. One definitely needs to have a lot of patience and deft fingers to maneuver the scissors and the canvas without snipping it into two.

What’s really astonishing is that the artists who are adept at this art form do not use any sketching or tracing to print the design, meaning this is all done free hand. Once complete, these impressive paintings are great pieces of art in themselves, placed against a solid, single-coloured background. Alternatively, cut paper stencils can also be used to make water paintings by tracing the colours on flat surfaces {or water}.

To make one at home, just head to the local market to source the necessary tools. You could even opt for the easier way out and pick up one of the readily available stencils from the market. Use this impress your family and friends with an intricate water painting or a colourful rangoli.

The pictograms that were used for directional signages during Commonwealth Games in 2010 were based on this exquisite art form.


Also known an Mithila paintings, Madhubani art hails from the Bihar region of India and was originally created by the women of Janakpur {now in Nepal}, the knowledge passed down through the generations to become what is it today; an exquisite design you can find on bags, bangles, even garments. The art form was essentially born when Ram and Sita were married and King Janak had commissioned a few artists to capture their wedding ceremonies via paintings.

It is a very intricate style of painting, but you need not travel to Mithila Art Institute to learn it; it’s surprisingly easy to try it at home and doesn’t require much patience and diligence.


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Photo source: oatsy40 via Flickr[CC BY2.0]

Terracotta is the art of using clay to create sculptures and earthenware, though it’s different from pottery, as it’s not made on a potter’s wheel. The term ‘terracotta’ literally means baked earth, and isn’t just a name for the art form; it can also refer to finished earthenware, especially if it’s brown-orange in colour.

While traditional terracotta is obviously made using a kiln, you need not necessarily depend upon one to make it at home. While small items like jewellery or tiny decorative show pieces are easy to bake {if you use clay that can dry in the air or the Sun, you need not bake it at all} at home using saw dust or charcoal, you can give bigger items like pots or sculptures to a commercial kiln also.

What’s more, the clay figures can stay intact for indefinite periods of time {if kept safe from breakage and water}, in case you’re not able to find a commercial kiln right away.

Phad Painting

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Photo source: Nomu420 via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Originally from Rajasthan, this folk style of painting involves scroll art and a long piece of cloth. The painting is a visual form of narration, as it involves telling stories or depicting scenes of mythology or history. This style is extremely delicate in its selection of tools and colours. Indeed, one unique characteristic of phad is that the colours are mixed and lifted from open sea shells, in order to protect the tip of the soft brush and keep the colours from hardening.

If you want to make this one at home, DIY kits are easily available in the market.

Wood Carvings

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Photo source: Pixabay

While National Crafts Museum does house some exquisite examples of wood carvings, the intricate handwork seen in the lattice works {or jharokhas} could only be possible if you were using a chisel or wood knife. A wide array of techniques and tools are used to make wood carvings. For doing it at home, simpler designs are advisable, especially if you’re a beginner. Although it can be hugely rewarding, it would be best to start with the basics and take the basic safety precautions. Like Sanjhi, it is very inexpensive, as it only needs wood and a carving tool {like a knife or a gouge} to complete.

Featured photo source: Bhaili


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