Treasures for your home
By Ruwanthi Herat Gunaratne
It's a treasure trove of ideas, goods and furniture. If you've ever noticed a heavy traffic buildup on Thimbirigasyaya Road you'd know what this is about. For situated on the way is a large building housing a variety of goods, little knick-knacks and furniture to give your home an aesthetic touch.

"Suriya" as its name suggests is sunny and bright. Roshan and Ruwanmali Jayasinghe are enthusiastic about their enterprise. They love old ideas with a new twist; they enjoy making something out of everything.

"I spent eight years of my life flying," smiles Ruwanmali, "and that gave me a lot of exposure." Her experiences in countries all over the world, her eye for creativity and her belief in the inborn talents of our local craftsmen brought about the opening of Suriya, four years ago.

"My mother-in-law is heavily involved in bringing out local talent as she spends a large part of her life with the Francina Home in Madawela where they do crochet work. She helps to market their products." Soon Ruwanmali's creative eye and business know-how had Suriya on its way. "At Suriya, we discover the exquisite things in nature and pamper and polish them to create our products."

"One of our main aims is to uplift the standard of living of the rural community. So what we do is to first get ourselves a sample or a mould of what we want or need to produce. Then we establish contacts with a local craftsman who has the ability to produce it. The income they get through this is far more than what they would generate by doing just the village work," Ruwanmali explains, pointing out a collection of silver and aluminum goods.

The plates, cutlery and candleholders are the work of a brass craftsman. Family traditions have made him so but his work with aluminum and silver for Suriya has seen him progress. "Though labour in Sri Lanka as opposed to other Asian countries is far from cheap, the quality of the goods is much better," says Ruwanmali.

It's not only cutlery that Suriya houses. There's table linen to brighten up even a dreary dining room, colourful sarongs and batik shirts and a host of candles in all shapes and sizes. "We even have a small daspethiya candle," she smiles.

There are baskets and baskets made from cloth and tree stems and everything in between to choose from. "At the very beginning we made the basic frame in Colombo and transported it to the local craftsmen who are spread all through the island, but we soon realized that we could get the frame also locally made and transport the finished product instead. We spent two days in the village, located and taught a blacksmith how to make exactly what we wanted. And he now subcontracts to another blacksmith! It's very rewarding."

Most of the women who are involved in making products for Suriya finish their daily chores by 2 p.m. They then sit down and crochet bags, table mats and mould clay pots and candlestands for sale. "We are helping curb the unemployment problem as well."

Another one of their main lines is furniture. "Our sofas are made totally out of handloom, with materials from their original makers. Once the customer has chosen their fabric and design, the craftsmen get to work, and the final product is one which you can sink into and forget everything." An armchair made of wrought iron and wicker, draped in blue silk catches our attention.

"The key to working with these goods is the display. These are not goods that can be shelved; they have to be exhibited in an artistic manner. There have been occasions where people walk into the store and ask to buy large cement pots, simply because they look good. But the fact remains that these goods depend heavily on their surroundings."

In order to help her clients make the right choices Ruwanmali also offers an Interior Decorating Service. When an old building is brought down, the Suriya crew is first on the spot. "We collect window panels and all kinds of old furniture," she says pointing out an old almirah, covered in temple drawings.

"That is another dying art form, and we felt that by encouraging local craftsman to paint these pictures which are mostly taken from Jathaka Katha we would be helping keep our culture alive." They themselves were taken aback by the interest the paintings generated. "Only natural dyes are used, and customers constantly ask us if they are the originals and we have to point out that even though the wood is old and sometimes ancient the paintings are modern."

Hand-painted crockery occupies another nook in their showroom. Suriya is also into exports. "It is a niche market that we cater to in Sri Lanka, but we have found that the younger generation is very aesthetic and more interested in goods of this nature." Any plans for expansion? "Well," she smiles, "Our range has grown during the past few years and the building unfortunately hasn’t ! But it will take more time."But as for us, the treasure hunt is over.

Back to Top  Back to Plus  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.