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Yen for creativity

Artist George Fernandez finds novel ways to make candles, flowers and fountains.


APTLY NAMED `Flora', George Fernandez's home is a treasure trove of artworks. Each piece of work displayed in his foyer speaks volumes for his creativity.Painting, to George, was a hobby even while he had been working as an English teacher at the Holy Angels Convent in Bangalore. He was equally passionate about flowers and on his return to Thiruvananthapuram in 1989, he decided to convert this love for flowers into a business venture. George started out on a small scale with a nursery at Pettah and gradually made a foray into floral arrangements.

"There weren't many florists in the city at that time. So, the demand for flowers and floral arrangements was more. I used to order fresh flowers from Bangalore, but the scarcity of flowers forced me take things slow," he says. Later, George realised that he had an acumen for crafting artificial flowers. The artificial flowers were an instant success and business began to look up. Once into the craft business, George's only aim was to excel in it.


For his floral arrangements, George uses the `wiring' technique to give the bouquet the desired shape. This, says the artist, helps keep the bouquet intact for a longer period of time. "A frame is made out of the wires and then the bouquet is made around the framework. To get the desired shape, each flower should be wired separately and arranged," he says. "It is a time consuming job".

Another craft George excels in is driftwood artefacts. "I collect driftwood mainly from forests. The wood is subjected to chemical treatment for about a year prior to its use," he says. Each piece of driftwood arrangement is one of its kind.

"Sometimes, I use the same kind of flowers to make a new arrangement, but the pattern is different each time," says George, who experiments with toilet soap to bread. "Toilet soaps like Lux International are a good medium for making artificial flowers and leaves. Since the leaves made of soap break up fast, I make them out of cloth," he says.

A mixture of bread crumbs, corn flour and Fevicol and food-grade colour is moulded by hand into the desired shape. This is left to dry for about three days and coated with picture varnish (used specifically for pictures) to prevent fungal attack. A similar treatment is given for flowers made of soap too. This gives the flowers a natural look.

His current passion is mural painting on terracotta. Though George has never had any formal training in painting or mural art, his works are precise to the last detail. He also paints on canvas using molten wax. "Coloured wax is put into small vessels and the vessel is put into a larger one containing water. The water is boiled to melt the wax," he explains.

George also uses molten wax whipped with an eggbeater to make candles. On whipping, the wax becomes fluffy and it is scooped out and placed on a candle mould. The candle gets an unpolished look after the wax has set. He also makes `sand candles', wherein the outer covering is made of sand. For the egg-shaped candles, George uses eggshells as moulds. Another interesting way in which he makes candles is by using ice cubes. The cubes are arranged into layers and a rod is placed in the middle. Molten wax is then poured into it. The ice cubes melt away leaving the wax behind. He also makes artefacts using marble powder and M-Seal, a sealing agent. A mixture of marble powder and Fevicol makes an excellent medium to give indentation to a painting. The same effect can be achieved with M-Seal as well. "The technique is called marble coning and the materials used are readily available in the local markets," says George Fernandez.

Also popular is decoupage, a popular art form of France, which is done on ceramics and terracotta. The name decoupage is derived from the French word decouper, which means to cut out. It is the art of decorating objects by assembling, pasting and varnishing cut outs made of paper, says George.

He also does customised block printing and tie-and-dye for tapestries and saris.

One of George's unique creations is a fountain. Pieces of thermocol are arranged atop one another and white cement is poured over them. After the thermocol pieces have dried thoroughly, acrylic paint is applied over them. The fountain is then coated with white cement. A small motor helps to circulate water. "It is a tedious process and I rarely make these kind of fountains. Despite the effort, I only get a marginal profit," he says.

As George's works became the talk of the town, people began approaching him to conduct classes. He now conducts regular classes at his home. The fee includes the cost of teaching materials and the students can even choose the time that suits them.

AMBIKA VARMA

Photos: S. Gopakumar

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