23 June 2010

Channapatna toy village

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!

This is an example of one of the older toys which used to be produced here. This piece is more than 40 years old is what the artisan explained to me.

I enjoyed capturing some of the details of the artisans' workspace. Here are some of the tools they use.

Piles of wood everywhere!

The wood used to make these toys is called Hale wood.

The floor of the workshop is covered in sawdust, bits of wood and splinters but work is worship so the artisans remove their footwear before entering their workspace.

Shiva and Parvati covered in sawdust and supervising operations.


Another corner of the workshop.


Some order in the chaos.


Waiting for the next tea break.



7 comments :

Jaya Wagle said...

Lovely post. I am posting link to this on FB, if you don't mind. I have friends in India who would love to read this.

arundati said...

beautiful post isabel... loved the pictures..i have a few toys from here and love them.

Veganosaurus said...

Great post and wonderful pictures Isabel. The cup and ball toy is still my favorite channapatna toy! :)

akhil said...

can u plz tell me the tools used for the production..

Isabel said...

Akhil, the toys are made using lathes powered by electricity. As the block of wood spins, the artisans use tools like chisels to shape the toy. They then use different hand tools to finish the toy.

C said...

This is so interesting. My dad was a carpenter, he would love to see all these beautiful, bright toys! Sorry to say he can't see anymore, but he would love the workmanship.
Also, I have been trying to find these toys in miniature. Where would I find them? I am going in circles & getting no where fast!

Adeline said...

Hi!I really enjoyed this post & the photos.