If you count a Kathakali souvenir, an elephant model, or a houseboat replica as the most significant and telltale manifestations of Kerala's unique identity, you are mistaken. Even if you add a few more features to them, you will discover they come to nothing when you step into this idyllic haven of enchanting curios - Memory Train - located in Edappally, Kochi. The list of Kerala-themed ornamental decor items here is so incredibly enormous that it may baffle you.
As you witness a set of trinkets modelled on a KSRTC bus, a tender coconut, a Nokia 3310 phone, a telephone, a Walkman, a postbox, typewriter, an Ambassador car, houseboat, jackfruit, cashew, cassette tape, and whatnot, you realize those images were never so breathtakingly fascinating before. These curios usher us to a vista of Kerala-centric features that might ignite our memories of a not-so-long past. The materials here do not simply serve as Kerala-themed or traditionally curated embellishments but rev up our memories, evoking a deep nostalgic rapture.
Explaining the core objective of the venture, Paul K John, founder of Memory Train, points out, "There is a dearth of well-designed artefacts on contemporary subjects. Most of the handicraft objects are the oft-repeated traditional artworks like Kathakali or an Aranmula mirror." He says that the culture of each region in Kerala distinctly varies, and huge volumes of nature's bounty, heritage, and beauty of different places remain to be explored in terms of artistic representations.
Of late, the Christmas-themed art objects are creating a buzz at Memory Train. Thus, a hornbill, a Malabar red squirrel, and an elephant make for a Christmas set. A Nativity set, which includes 12 pieces, is more traditionally oriented. Paul, who completed his education in design from Coventry University, UK, had short stints with spatial design companies before embarking on a journey of creating art materials in contemporary Kerala. Though he began the groundwork for his studio of 3-D printed art materials during the time of Covid, Paul formally launched the art house in May this year. While his wife Megha Abraham takes care of the overall management and marketing, Paul deals with the artwork production.
The artists are all Malayalis and are either BFA or MFA alumni. The resin and ceramic materials for curios are procured locally, and the porcelain materials are imported from Sri Lanka. In November, Memory Train launched the Christmas series titled 'God's Own Christmas'. "Other nations interpret Christmas through their cultural hues, so we too can present it through the prism of our traditions," Paul says. From heritage-themed souvenirs to Christmas baubles, hangings, and gifts, the ceramic and resin curios aim to showcase Kerala for discerning art connoisseurs in a uniquely different shade. "So there is a Santa Claus clad in a white 'mundu' sitting in a boat," he says.
Apart from decorative purposes, some objects have utility as well. "Snakeboat bookends made of resin or tusker-themed mugs with the trunk as the handle are products for everyday use besides exuding artistic charm," Paul says and adds more such curios will be included in their collection. There are many other awe-inspiring home decor, gift materials, and exotic items at Memory Train. A 3-D printed resin wall piece on a lake of water lilies in Malarikkal in Kumarakom, Kottayam, wherein you see various minute details, including a fish swimming underwater, is bliss to watch. A snake boat race, a floating toddy shop (shaap in Malayalam), a traditional ancestral house in Kerala (tharavadu), and Chess sets with pieces modelled on ancient Indian rulers are a few examples.
The prices range between Rs 1,500 and Rs 7,000, and the products are available on MemoryTrain.com. The start-up has conducted around 11 exhibitions so far. The entity is planning to widen its operations through digital marketing. "We are also catering to art, gift, and decor needs of big corporate houses," says Paul, who hails from a business family but is treading a line of his passion.