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Flowers from Cocoon Shells

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By A Staff Writer

Nothing in the nature really goes waste. There are uses for the junk and scope for recycling of several things that we discard.
Shells of silk cocoons could be turned into flowers, a new genre of art that is just making its forays into the lexicon of décor. Cocoon shells or damaged cocoons from silk reeling units, are generally discarded into composts pits and turned into manure, rich in protein that they are. But no longer so! Colourful flowers could be created out of them, though tulips are the easiest to be made. But a little imagination can even lead to dahlia, rhodendorons and several other flowers.
The art is the brainchild of Dr. Fatima Sadatulla, Associate Professor of Sericulture at the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS) in Bangalore. The department put up a stall named “Cocoon Craft” at the recently concluded Krishi Mela at the Gandhi Krishi Vigyana Kendra (GKVK) visited by over six lakh people in the second week of November. The stall displayed bouquets, greeting cards, garlands and flowers wrapped around sticks in myriad hues and attracted a stream of high-heeled women basically looking for new varieties of flower plants for their terrace gardens.
While there have been artificial flowers on the scene made out of paper, plastic and a variety of other material, using cocoon shells was unusual. Fatima says the idea to create flowers of this material came to her purely by chance around later 1980s while she was an undergraduate student at the university where she teaches now. She says she would cut the discarded shells (after yarn from them had been taken out) into various patterns, colour them and shape them into flowers. She would even arrange the painted material into various motifs for greeting cards which would be sent to their friends on various occasions.
What began as a pastime, gradually transformed into a hobby and still later morphed into a definitive art form and artistic skill. Later when she began to teach at the department, she began to train her students into collecting damaged waste cocoons from granages and cut them into various patterns, chiefly flowers.
Fatima began to provide hands-on training to her students at the Department of Sericulture under an entrepreneurship scheme. She would procure the damaged cocoons from Central Silk Board offices in Bangalore and would paint them with dyes used for textiles or acrylic paints. Even farm women engaged in silk rearing in rural areas would be trained by her for making flowers out of these shells. The University Department approved a project on Cocoon Crafts under commercial sericulture submitted by her last year. The object d art for the Cocoon Craft stall at the Krishi Mela were entirely prepared by Fatima’s trainees.
Meanwhile, another former trainee from her Department, Vijayendra has introduced it as a subject in the Sericulture College at Chintamani, 70 kms north east of Bangalore. Some of the trainee women have even taken the art to their villages and formed two NGOs, Aadhar and Swabhimana Sangha to engage farm women into producing flowers out of cocoon shells. These NGOs were initially helped with a revolving fund from the Department and are now generating enough of their own revenue to sustain themselves. Vijayendra says the flowers could have a shelf life of two years and a little careful handling and preservation under glass cases can even ensure ten years of life span.