What may seem useless to others can actually become something of worth and beauty. This is what S. Jeya Cruz, a master craftsperson from Tamil Nadu does as he turns coconut shells into utility items and jewellery.
More than his craft, what makes this 62 years old man truly admirable is his willingness to train destitute women in this art to enable them eke out a decent livelihood. At present 25 such women in Kanniyakumari district are being guided by Cruz to change the shells into value-added products like bangles, necklaces, hair clips, earrings, wine cups, jewellery boxes, spoons, soup bowls among other items.
Talking about this, Cruz told the media that he is eager to pass on his art to future generations and that is why he thinks imparting the skill to these women is vital.
Cruz was born in a family which is dedicated to crafts and arts. His maternal grandfather S. Samathana Villavarayer made objects from tortoise shells and later turned to seashell craft and painting.
Dropping early from school, Cruz decided to become an artisan. He took up coconut shell craft as products made from it were 100 per cent environmentally friendly and natural.
His aesthetically designed and equally useful products became a hit in India and were exported abroad. The jewellery and utensils made by him have lucrative markets in countries like France, Germany and US.
Cruz then partnered with Tamil Nadu Government district skill training office at Nagercoil and started training women in this craft. Today several women are able to support their families thanks to this training.
While lockdowns resulting from Covid-19 did affect his business it is now becoming normal. Both for his skill and training, he has been appreciated and bestowed with several awards including the Utility Award and Kalai Chemmal Award from the Tamil Nadu Government and Haryana Government’s Kalashri Award.