Athangudi Tiles

You almost immediately tend to notice the floor as one of the first features of a house you step in. It is meant to offer a strong sense of identity to the entire structure. For this, sticking to local materials and traditions is mostly preferred in India and one such material is the Athangudi Tile. 

These specific tiles are native to the Athangudi village in Tamil Nadu, south of India. They are known for their colourful and intricate traditional patterns and are used for flooring. The creation of these patterns in itself is an art! The traditional patterns are mostly geometric or floral using earthy colours mainly such as oxidised red, mustard yellow, dark green, blacks and whites. The Athangudi tiles are handmade out of cement and are similar to mosaic. Their manufacturing requires less energy and hence is environmentally sustainable too.

With the introduction of factory produced tiles and due to the Athangudi tiles’ relatively slow and labour intensive manufacturing process, the craft is dying. It is important to popularise the Athangudi tiles in order to promote a traditional and eco-friendly craft.

Let’s learn how to create some beautiful Athangudi tile patterns to bring in a part of a lost tradition from India into your homes!

Step by step

HOW TO CREATE THE SHAPES:

STEP 1 

Take 2 A4 size papers and draw a square of 16 cm/side in the middle of each of the papers using a pencil and a ruler to create the boundary of the tile. 

STEP 2

Pick out one of the papers and cut out the square using a pair of scissors.

STEP 3

Now fold the square into half vertically and fold it again horizontally.

STEP 4

Open up the folds to find creases and cut along these to get 4 smaller squares.

STEP 5

Now colour one square red, the second one yellow, the third green and the last one black. There is no need to colour on both sides. 

STEP 6

Cut the red and yellow squares to create smaller squares following steps 3 and 4.

STEP 7

Take the green square and fold it along the diagonal. Then fold it into half again. 

STEP 8

Open the square and cut along the creases to get 4 triangles. 

STEP 9

Now take the black square and fold it along the diagonal. Then fold it into half twice. 

STEP 10

Open the square and cut along the creases to get 8 small triangles. Now you have 4 red squares, 4 yellow squares, 4 green triangles and 8 black triangles. 

HOW TO CREATE THE PATTERN:

STEP 11

Take the other A4 sized paper with the 16 cm x 16 cm square and mark points of 8 cm on each side of the square. Now join these points using a pencil to create a reference template.

STEP 12

Now place the shapes inside the square to create a pattern. These patterns can be symmetrical or free flowing. You can use the given lines but don’t be afraid to explore beyond the reference lines! Make sure your pattern is inside the boundary of the tile (16cm x 16cm square).

STEP 13

Now replicate your tile on another A4 sized paper using colours. This time the tile size can be smaller (6 cm x 6 cm).

STEP 14

Move around the shapes to create more patterns. Try playing with the white space by removing some of the shapes! You can try different reference templates too or remove the template altogether! You can also create more geometrical shapes to add into your tiles such as circles and diamonds.

STEP 15

Every time you create a pattern, don’t forget to replicate it onto your sheet to preserve it! You now have traditional Indian Athangudi Tile Designs to decorate your home with!

STEP 16 (Optional)

You can also create a flooring design by repeating a single tile pattern multiple times!

Share your newly learnt craft with your friends and family and don’t forget to read up more about the Athangudi Tiles!

Khushi Barjatya is a contemporary art practitioner from India currently exploring the vast realms of ‘Decolonising Design’.

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