Like in other states of the country, the range of Goan handicrafts vary. Most of Goa’s handicrafts are made with the help of materials like clay, seashells, paper, bamboo, coconut and brass. The huge influx of tourists in the state helps in the flourishing of the handicraft industry in Goa. Being a coastal region, a lot of handicrafts are made with seashells and coconuts. Items produced by the craftsmen include chandeliers, lampshades, coasters, mirror frames etc. A lot of cane crafts are done in which the cane is procured from the forest regions towards the eastern end of the state. Wooden lacquerware, brassware and copperware are also some of the other industries in Goa.
Pottery and Terracotta
Traditionally, it is the skilled Kumbhar community in Goa that is known for its rich-hued red clay pottery and, of late, stoneware as well. Pottery is one of the oldest traditional crafts in the state. Historic records show that potters used to supply local temples with clay lamps and cooking pots. Today, the craft is centred in the districts of Bicholim and Calangute in north Goa, with the finished products being sold in the markets of Mapusa, Margao and Panaji.
While the potter’s wheel is used, in some cases, the pieces are moulded laboriously by hand. The kitchen earthenware made is for both cooking and storing purposes, and includes items such as plates, bowls, cups and vases. Furthermore, objects such as planters, lamps, masks and sculpted figurines are also made. In recent times, several design studios and younger practitioners have begun to specialise in pottery including Simonie Rego, Sylvia Kerkar, Thomas Louis and Terravida.
Brassware and Copperware
The members of the Kansara community in Goa have long been engaged in the making of copperware. Their clusters are largely located in Mapusa and Sanquelim in north Goa. The common items they produce include vessels for cooking food and boiling water, special utensils for steaming idlis, as well as storage boxes. brass is also largely used to craft paraphernalia such as lamps and bells used for religious or ceremonial purposes. Some of these lamps are elaborate two- or three-tiered pieces.
Wooden Lacquerware and Wooden Carving
The process of making lacquerware from wood in Goa is known as ‘wood turning’. It is a labour-intensive, time-consuming process where a rough log of wood is first smoothened by using sand-paper, then sculpted using a chisel and hammer to create objects such as toys, bowls, bangles, figurines and sculptures. Once shaped, it is smoothened another time using a file. This step is followed by the application of a few coats of paint, after which a coat of clear lacquer is used to lend it a sheen.
Wooden lacquerware makes for ideal souvenirs and hence popular at markets for tourists.
Lace and Crochet Embroidery
Goa is famed for its traditional crafts of lace-making and crochet embroidery. It is said that these techniques were first introduced in the state by the Portuguese nuns of the Santa Monica Church and Convent during the early 1600s. Largely an occupation among women, lace-making and crocheting were employed for creating garments for ritualistic or ceremonial uses and for objects meant for the altar. Some of the common items made today include homeware like tablecloths, napkins, coasters,
runners, doilies and door or wall hangings along with clothes or as trimmings and embellishments.
Bamboo and Cane Craft
Known as ‘Maniche Kaam’ in local parlance, bamboo and cane craft is a popular industry in Goa. While bamboo is procured from the regions of Bicholim, Bardez, Pernem and Sattari, the craft itself is predominantly practised among the Mahar community in Cuncolim and Margao (south Goa) and in Mangueshi and Porvorim (north Goa). The objects made are primarily utilitarian in nature, such as baskets, storage boxes, winnowing trays, chicken baskets and mats.
Coconut Mask Carving & Seashell Craft
Given Goa’s topography and location along the coast, the region has an abundance of coconuts. Among the many uses that the coconut is known for, along with its economic viability, it is also used to craft decorative masks and other objects. The husk and the shell of the coconut can be skilfully fashioned to create intricately carved showpieces and uniquely designed masks. Once the coconut is cut open and the flesh scooped out, sandpaper is used to get rid of the fibre-like strands and the outermost layer of the shell.
Thereafter, the shell is varnished to add a glossy effect; this stage is termed as ‘buffing’. At times, a coloured stone is employed for buffing, in order to make the colour more apparent. Some of the well-known artists in coconut art and handicraft in Goa include Deepak Naik, Sonu Shetgaonkar and Vijaydutta Lotlikar. Creating objects using seashells is also a key handicraft technique innate to Goa. Skilled craftspeople use the shells gathered from the shores to make unique pieces of art, including lamps, wall hangings, headgear and other accessories. The craft dates back to the time of Portuguese rule in Goa.
Making ropes out of coir is an important handicraft industry in Goa. With fishing as one of the primary occupations of the population—along with bustling port activity—ropes are in great demand. The coir, or the fibre procured from the husk of the coconut, is the main component of these ropes. Once the outer fibres of the coconut get softened, the husk is removed by hand, then beaten until dry. Thereafter, the fibres are pulled out and twisted to create strands, which are further doubled and twisted to form ropes.
Among the several small-scale industries operating across Goa, bangle-making is an important one. Bangles and bracelets are largely made out of wood and then painted in bright colours and lacquered, or seashells are used as a form of embellishment. There are manufacturers specialising in producing glass bangles as well.
Making a ‘godhadi’—or a traditional Goan quilt—is an age-old handicraft in the state. While its construction and design might appear simple at first glance, the process of creating one is rather intricate and time-consuming. It is essentially a patchworked, hand-stitched quilt comprising a range of colours, and can be made using old sarees or recycling fabric. The signature stitch used is the running stitch pattern, usually in the form of ornate spirals and circles. Today, however, sewing machines have slowly begun to replace the work done by hand.