Alappuzha artist makes toys out of palm leaves

John Baby twists and folds a long strip of coconut leaf. In a few minutes, it transforms the band into an elegant grasshopper. He soon makes another one and the two grasshoppers look ready to pounce.

“No” to plastic

It all started years ago when John started making toys for his homeschooled kids Minon and Minto. “My wife and I didn’t want to give them plastic toys, so I had to make whatever they asked for out of palm fronds. This included diggers, which they loved.

Born in Harippad in Alappuzha, John spent his childhood playing in the fields. His father, a farmer and businessman, took him on his travels and John learned the art of craftsmanship from field workers, who used to weave palm fronds into mats. . “Everything that man has built today started with the hands. Creating something by hand is a primordial thing. Every human being has this innate ability. It’s just that we have moved away from it. We slip on our cell phones at our fingertips, we don’t create anything new with them.

Craft workshops

Until the pandemic, he was taking craft classes at Kerala State Institute of Design. John leads workshops for children and adults. “Working with the hands stimulates creativity. It helps eliminate laziness.

John talks about the meditative quality of craftsmanship. Working with the hands instills patience, focus, a sense of tolerance and a habit of hard work, he says. “If children were introduced to crafts from an early age, they could acquire these qualities.

Resorts and hotels that hold sustainable events using eco-friendly products often ask John for help in making decorative products from leaves. Currently living in an apartment in Kochi, John says palm fronds aren’t as easy to come by. He is planning a few workshops for children and adults this summer.

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