Handicrafts

Sri Lanka has a large range of handicrafts, known globally for these products that are
manufactured by applying old age techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation. These artifices have been assembled by the use of particular tools and from raw materials found abundant in nature.  Sri Lankan Handicrafts are very famous among the locals and as well as among the tourists. There made from indigenous raw materials and tools fashioned in rural craft centers. It was within these castes that traditional skills were closely preserved with a high degree of distinct ethnic identity.

It’s more of a cottage industry than own by multinational companies. It’s an art which developed into a business. The people who involved in this field, they got the skill and art from their parents. They have passed the art of making handicrafts generation to generation. It helps very much to elevate their financial situation.
Though we can see various handicrafts everywhere throughout the island shops, one
particular are is popular for one particular handicraft.

For example “Kumbalgama” is well known for clay pottery. The village name itself says “clay pottery village”. And “Wewaldeniya” is popular for cane craft. The village name itself says literally cane area. Products are making use of natural raw materials.

About famous handcraft products of Sri Lanka and how its made

The clay pottery Industry

Pottery is one of the oldest handicrafts in Sri Lanka. It has been continuing since very beginning of Aryans Sinhalese civilization of Sri Lanka in 5th century BC. Some clay pots,vessels, decorated items, sculptures and other clay equipment has been founded in archaeological excavations which proofing how old this industry was. Potter is traditionally known as “Kumbala”in local language. First they prepare the clay by mixing water into it. They use the foot to mix. Either Clay may be model by hand or with the assistance of a potter’s wheel.

After the molding process pottery must be fired, to make the clay get rid of water in the clay and to get hard. Products finishing is depend on how far potter is skilled. Low fired cooking pots, cooking pans and jugs. And also bowls, goblets, tiles, vases are the most widely used in kitchen of Sri Lanka. And ornaments such as delightful animals, Sinhalese characteristics are also produced at the pottery workshops in the countryside.

Handloom Textiles

Handloom textiles are produced in Sri Lanka is a small scale industry. The combination of traditional designs mixed with modern trends in modern materials has made export quality Sri Lankan hand looms access the international market. Such as bedclothes, towels, upholstery materials, furnishing materials such as curtaining, cushion covers, saris and sarongs.

And even books, notebooks, albums and writing pads are now clothed with this
handicraft material. Most of the rural women are involving in this industry. Some of them run this as a cottage industry, which generate extra income for themselves. We know in this part of the world, mostly women are depend on the man financially, But this kind of industries make them to stand on their foot and convert their skills into money. The government also providing some supports to uplift the lives of working.

Batiks

Batiks is Indonesian influenced roots, yet in Sri Lanka has developed into unique style to produce shirts, sarongs, dresses, shorts, wall hanging, cushion covers. Batik handicraft products are of vibrant colors. In the production of high-quality batik is time-consuming, batik involves multiple waxing and dying of cloth. In the end, all wax scrapped out and boiled. The cloth is made to absorb the colors of the dyes further by the use of hydroelectric acid. Originally Batika cottage industry, today manufacturing of batik products is done at workshop level in the southwestern coastal areas as well as the central area of Sri Lanka. The melted wax covers the uncolored areas. Moreover, this is such a tedious process.

It depends on the color scheme, where the processed cloth has to go in the color bath several times. The patterns are generally drawn on a white cloth using a template. However, a skilled artist who has the ability derived from China manages not only cotton but pure silk as well.

In this form of art, the initial step is the lime drawing, then waxing and the boiling sessions that take place before the final dyeing session. The ‘tie & dye’ method was popular earlier as drawing is unnecessary here, although the theme becomes a multi-colored uniform round of patterns. The cloth should be washed thoroughly; a drawing pen with a heap of molten wax is used to trace the pattern. The temperature of the wax is 17 C.

When the wax has cooled down, the cloth is submerged in a bowl of cold water and then placed in the dye bath and added to salt and soda for 30-60 minutes. The cloth is then removed ad paged to drip; to remove the wax the cloth should be boiled in a container for 5 minutes with detergent the cloth should then be rinsed and dried thoroughly. This is the process for each color until the final design is complete.

Wood carving

The tradition of wood carving manifested at Lankathilaka temples and Embekke Temples at Kandy. A wide range of handicraft items made of wood combine utility and beauty adding elegance to your lifestyle. wall hanging, fancy jewelry, figurine, sculpture, lacquer products, gift boxes, toys, educational items for preschool children, household items are some of the woodcraft items produced in Sri Lanka. Woodcarving is one of the oldest crafts still continuously practiced in Sri Lanka. Ancient artisans preferred low relief woodcarving.
Today many decorative tables, chairs & panels are still carefully carved using traditional designs.

Wooden mask

Wooden masks making earliest influenced in the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka,
especially city of Ambalangoda has a long heritage in specialized handicrafts producing of wooden masks. Vibrant colors are made of timber of tree locally called kaduru The technique of producing masks has been passed from generation to generation from ancient times. The logs (kotaya) of Kaduru dried in the hard tropical sun till the juice of the timber vanishes. Then cut into the pieces of the required size. Its carved and painted which depict god, human, demons, and beasts.

Brassware

Brassware in  Sri Lanka produced in two main techniques; wrought and cast Oil lamps, pots, bowls, vases, wall plaques and other household items made with cast technique.  Brassware is assembled in two main techniques; wrought and cast bowls. Tea services, trays, and ornamental ware, as well as decorative ware, are producing by this wrought technique.

Cane waving

Wewaldeniya is very famous for cane waving, though it’s not the native place of Wewal palm (calamus rotang). Those are coming from far areas. We can see only shops on the roadside of Kandy road. But inside the village huge workshops are functioning which consist of thousands of workers. The skills they got from their parents but when we talked to them they had no idea how this industry was rooted in this area.

Lacemaking

Not indigenous to  Sri Lanka was introducing by the early European.

Mat weaving

Mat weaving used to be practiced by every female villager because the crafts were
considered a necessary domestic accomplishment. Mats were used for both floors covering and beds. Presently mat weaving is still popular among villagers, but it is a cottage industry with few established sales outlets. Instead, weavers generally peddle their mats at festivals, fairs, and pilgrimage sites. Visitors may see them during the Kandy perehera; the pavements of the  city are colorfully lived with rolled up mats for sale The mats of the highest quality with the best designs are made in the village of the Dumbara Valley in the Kandy district.
These mats are traditionally woven on a simple loom using fibres from the bowstring hemp, mostly of white or black color and often decorated with stripes or bands, or even animal or floral motifs.

Metal Works

Sri Lanka has a long tradition in metals such as gold, silver, brass, tin, lead, and iron as well as their ornamental casting and pierced designs. Handicrafts of damascene decorating metals such as iron or steel with wavy patterns etching or inlays of precious metals and filigree-delicate decorative openwork made from thin metal.

 

Spice

Known as the Spice Island, Sri Lanka was historically attractive to the world nations for its spices. If we look back to the history it says lot about Sri Lankan  spices. Herbs and Spices in Sri Lanka have played the most important role in cuisine throughout the history of the country. During the medieval era, in the absence of fridges and freezers, herbs and spices were importantly used as food preserving agents, specifically for meat based dishes. In ancient times it maintained relations with the Greeks, Romans and Arabs through its spice trade.

Especially during 8th century, when Arab traders footed on the land, they bought spices and had taken to the Europe. There was a huge demand for the spices, especially for Worlds number one cinnamon. It is said the Arabs sold it for very high prices.during 16th century with decline of trading monopoly of Arabs. Later Portuguese taken over the marine control and they wanted to find out where these spices are coming from.

Which resulted that they have seen Arab traders loading at the Galle fort. In 16th century Portuguese replaced Arabs in the spice trade. Portuguese invaders who broken and over used the spice growing areas, leading to their near destruction. When the Dutch took over, they tried to improve the spice lands and successfully designated certain areas of the country to specialize in the growth of one particular spice, thus the trade flourished from there.

Yet they were not be able to control the entire  county.it  was the British took control all over the country and they developed the spice gardens further in order to process and export spices, such as cinnamon, clover, pepper, nutmeg, mace and ginger. Cinnamon remained most historical spice.

Sri Lankan Spice varieties

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is the spice which had changed the fate of Sri Lanka, botanically known as Cinnamomum zeylanicumwhich is originally endemic to SriLanka. If there were no cinnamons we could have had a another kind of history which no colonial eras and no socio-economic effects, though this history is a mixed bag.

It is said during the colonial era, other than the financial benefit the cinnamon became symbol higher status of rich people. The people bought cinnamon lands to show their status. Even today Worlds largest of cinnamon supply is from Sri Lanka. Cinnamon has originated in Sri Lanka & it has unique characteristics, which can be branded under GI protection.

Accordingly Ceylon Cinnamon introduced to the international market as a branded product namely “Pure Ceylon Cinnamon”. Most other cinnamons, especially from other regions of the world producing from a related species of plants which known as “cassia”. It was obtaining by making shavings of inner bark of the cinnamon plant. Cinnamon was often using spice up chocolate, curries, desserts and beverages, also for alcohol flavouring and medicine.

Curry leaves

Curry leaves, which are most commonly known as Karapincha are used throughout the island to flavor various curries and are grown in almost every Sri Lankan garden. They are thin and shiny and are most often used fresh and whole or dried and ground. More than just an herb to add taste to a dish, Karapincha it is widely using for its medicinal purposes. It is excellent for fat reduction, protects the liver and has proved to be a medicinal cure of certain liver diseases, the control of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Clove

Sri Lankan clove, find to be richer in oil than those from other growing countries in the world. The odor, flavor and oil contents are the important criteria of cloves.
Clove is the flower buds of a evergreen tree. They are mainly use as a spice, but also
used as medicine. Cloves harvested and traded mainly Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Madagascar, Tanzania and Zanzibar. When it’s come to cooking purpose cloves use in Asian, African ,middle eastern and Mexican cuisines while some using for confectioneries.

Pepper

Pepper was the spice which srilankan had used through the past in their cuisines, but with the arrival of Portuguese, Sri Lanka turned to chili gradually.It is the spice that most commonly traded in the world. Generally refers to black,green and white. The black pepper is the unripe fruit of pepper plant. Then its cooked and dried. Green pepper also unripe fruit do dried, but not cooked.
White pepper on the other hand, is seed from ripe pepper fruit Pepper used for its stong aroma and its spiciness as a chili replacement. In addition to that its used for medical purpose and also used for massages by making pepper oil. In Sri Lanka pepper grown in the wet and intermediate zones mostly as mixed crops. Pepper is native to south and Southeast Asia.

Cardamom

It is third on the list of world most expensive spices, right behind vanilla and saffron.
Cardamom, also known as cardamon is a small seedpod with black seed inside. There are two types of cardamom in one family. One is pale green and the other one dark brown named amomum. Cardamom used as cooking spice and flavoring, especially for tea and coffee. Also used as medicine.and give aroma for confectioneries. Cardamom is native for India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangaladesh. A few other countries like srilanka also involving in cultivation.

Turmeric

Turmeric, the botanical name is circuma longa, a orangish yellow powder once processed from rhizome. Its mainly used for its color which adding to several cuisines. The taste is little bitter and peppery. Though it’s grown in southeast asia its native to southwest India.

Ginger

Ginger is the root of flowering plant. Its used as spice for food, flavouring for beverages or in folk medicine. Its originating in south china and later spread all over asia follow the African continent, The spice introduced to Europe from india in the 1st century AD. Today its very commonly used spice globally.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is the seed of a type of evergreen tree (Myristica fragrans), while mace is the
reddish netlike covering surrounding the seed. Nutmeg and mace are used as a flavoring for many sweet dishes from the cuisines of various countries, and as a spice in many savoury dishes. Furthermore Lemongrass and Citronella (Sera), Sri Lankan Bourbon Vanilla, Coriander, Tamarind, Cumin are some other spices which available in Sri Lanka. Even today other than local consuming Sri Lanka is exporting spices to the world market. In terms of foreign exchange earnings to the country, Spice exports have indicated US$ 214Mn in year 2011 indicating 11.73% of growth.

Net foreign exchange earnings from Spices & Allied product sector is recording above 80%..and 56% of Sri Lankan agricultural exports consist of spices, allied products and essential oils. With the increase of international demand for natural products, and the island’s focus on enhancing and evolving its value added range, spices will continue to be a key facet of Sri Lanka’s export income.

 

Sri Lanka’s Gem industry

Sri Lanka’s Gem industry has a very long colorful history. Lanka was known as “Rathna Deepa” which means Gems Island. The name is reflection of its natural wealth. So many historical incidence and the stories had written about precious stones of Sri Lanka. The Ptolemy an astronomer of the 2nd century AD recorded that beryl and sapphire was mainstay of Sri Lankan gem industry. And Famous business traveler of 13th century AD from Venice, the Marcopolo wrote that the island had the best sapphires, topazes, amethysts and other gems in the world.

Further more the Records from the sailors of Middle Eastern and Persian traders that visited the island wrote that they brought back jewels of  Serendib in 4th 5th century AD. Even during the colonial period lots of gems taken away from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has highest density of gem deposits compared to its land mass to find gem stones which known as gem mining done by using few methods pit-head mining, and tunneling, Surface placer mining, and river bed dredging. Some people ride on
their luck without any effort.

Anyway compare to the other parts the Ratnapura city and suburbs contain the most gem deposits in Sri Lanka. And derived its name from gem industry. Ratnapura means city of gems. There are lot of gemstone types can be find in Sri Lanka. The blue sapphire is the most famous, which known as Ceylon sapphire.

Ceylon sapphires are reportedly unique in color, clarity and shine compared to the other countries. The Ceylon sapphire is the stone which fixed in the princess Diana wedding ring. And the same ring has been used for the engagement of the prince William and kate. It is said the the blue saphire of Sri Lanka went almost out of stock at that time as everybody in England wanted a replica of it. The biggest star sapphire founded recently in Sri Lanka which 1405 carrots.

Sri Lankan gems

Corundum, beryl,quartz, spinel,tourmaline ,topaz are some of gem species that found in srilanka. It’s very complicate to evaluate a gemstone, you need lot more experience to it, but basically we can look for 4 things to evaluate, which known as 4 C s. The color- depends on stone the value of the color varies. For example if its blue sapphire cone flower blue has market. If its darker or lighter has less value than corn flower blue, this sapphire can only found in Sri Lanka known as Ceylon sapphire. When it’s come to Ruby, pigeon blood red has market. The Clarity- there are inclusions in the stone, less inclusion has more values. Cut depend on the shape of stone cut varies. Carrot weight- bigger stones are very rare. Those stone has big values. We cannot calculate in the method of other things are calculated.

For example if 1 carrot is equal to 10 dollars mens 10 carrots is equal to 100 dollars, but this theory is not valid for the gemstones, that ten carrot stone could be even
1000 or even more. Because again big stones are very rare. Any way even today Sri Lanka is exporting 100,000 carrots annually. Lot of international gem buyers also visiting Sri Lanka to buy gems. The government authority also provide supports and services to them if they approached. Such as checking the real quality of the stones, weighing, giving certification and etc. He government authority for gem industry is National gem & jewellery authority (NGJA) renamed in 1993, which originally had started in 1971 as state gem corporation (1971)