If you've ever taken the road leading to Mysore from Bangalore, you would have probably noticed some roadside shops at some point along the way selling colourful wooden toys and rocking horses like the ones in the picture above. This means you were passing through Channapatna, the 'toy village'. I took a trip there last weekend and visited a toy-making factory where artisans continue this age-old handicraft tradition.
These colourful lacware toys are popular with tourists as well as parents who prefer natural, non-toxic toys for their children rather than the more common plastic ones. There are about 2500 artisans in Channapatna working in this handicraft industry which was in danger of dying out before being revived a few years ago.
Above the artisan's head is a small mirror. I noticed each 'work station' had one and asked what it was for. Someone explained that they use a mirror to help get bits of wood out of the eye... With wood flying everywhere I'm surprised they don't use protective glasses.
The colours are made with natural vegetable dyes like indigo for blue, turmeric for yellow, katakata for brown and annatto seeds for red. These are melted with lac and made into lac sticks. These coloured sticks are used to dye the wood once it has been sanded. While the wood turns on the lathe, the stick is pressed against it and the colour is transfered to the surface.
The artisans make traditional toys which have stood the test of time as well as newer designs which have been introduced more recently. A string with a little wooden ball is tied to the end of this toy. The game is to try to catch the ball into the receptacle!
I enjoyed capturing some of the details of the artisans' workspace. Here are some of the tools they use.
The wood used to make these toys is called Hale wood.