HISTORY OF CHANNAPATNA TOYSChannapatna a rural area in the outskirts and situated at a distance of about 60kms from Bangalore is noted for its famous handmade lacquer wooden toys all over the world and hence popularly known as Gombegala Ooru or the toy-town of Karnataka. The origin of the wooden toys date back to the period of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore who was a great admirer of wooden toys. He took the initiative to invite artisans from Persia and train the local artists to earn the process of making of the wooden toys. The artisans still follow the traditional method of making the toys for nearly two centuries and the artisans are only using ivory wood for making the toys and very rarely rosewood and sandalwood are used. But slowly the artisans have also started to use other woods like teak, pine, rubber and cedar wood.
WOODEN TOYS OF CHANNAPATNA ACCOUNT FOR THEIR TRADITIONAL SPECIALTY-The wooden toys of Channapatna account for their traditional specialty and is well known not only in India but also across the globe. The Government of Karnataka has given the status of Geographical Indication (GI) for this traditional craft of wooden toys under the World Trade Organization. The best feature of the Channapatna wooden toys which makes them stand apart from other innovative toys are that they are eco- friendly and is mainly made of non toxic vegetable color dyes. The toys are ideal for children because they are not hazardous in any way for they are very simple, vibrantly colored, safe and attractive. These wooden toys help to rediscover the child in you. Another interesting fact is that the customers can even witness of the making of these toys by the artisans, right in front of their eyes.
TRADITIONAL IVORY WOOD MAINLY USED IN THE MAKING OF THE WOODEN TOYSThe traditional ivory wood which is mainly used in the making of the wooden toys comes from the locally available tree namely Wrightia tinctoria tree which is commonly known as Aale mara by the local people. The wood of tinctoris tree is lacquered in the process of toy making. The artisans of Channapatna are trained and guided by the Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation where they have an Artisan Training Institute (A.T.I) to promote Channapatna toys. This training institute was established nearly 90 years ago. The Karnataka Handicraft Board also trains and brings them awareness about the changing trend in the field. Apart from this the local artisans are also aided by the Karnataka Government where they have provided help by constructing a Lacquer ware Craft Complex, which has a manufacturing centre with 32 turning lathe machines, at Channapatna.
-The lacquered Channapatna wooden toys are known for their highly fashionable appeal which is made with bright and vivid colors. The finishing of the wooden toys is very smooth and hence it is not dangerous by any means. They are very eco- friendly in nature. A distinct traditional craft technique is used in the making of the Channapatna toys by lacquering the ivory wood. It is noted for its high permanence and durability. These toys have a high demand in the local market where they are sent to wholesalers, small and big suppliers and retailers at highly attractive prices. The other special feature which add up to the merit of these wooden toys are that they are made with the ivory wood which is specially meant for export. The lacquer colors which are used in the making of the toys are prepared from natural shellac. The ivory wood is present in abundance in the geographical area and it does not weigh heavy. They are closely grained and easy to work with.
ARTISIANS ARE VERY COMFORTABLE WITH IVORY WOODThe artisans are very comfortable with ivory wood for it is easy to cut, process and finish. Right from procuring the wood to its pruning, seasoning and coloring, the expert Channapatna craftsmen use handicraft skills that are pure, crude and raw. Finally once the toy is lacquered, polishing and the dyeing of the product is done. The dyes used are only vegetable extraction and colored based on the likes and preferences of the art. In spite of the great competition faced by these traditional wooden toys from Barbie dolls, the cuddly Teddys, Lego and a host of glitzy China-made toys, the Channapatna toys which though found a dip in the middle have made over by innovation with brighter colors, lacquer finish, contemporary designs, trendy names, vegetable dyes and savvy marketing have made them an international brand name. Thus once upon a time being the art of only the Persian toy makers, it has now become an Indian craft.
PROCESS OR MAKING OF THE WOODEN TOYS
-The artisans follow the traditional method of handicraft which involves lacquering. The process of toy making starts with the procurement of raw material which is readily available from the local wood suppliers. Then based on the size of the planks the wood is seasoned for at least 2-3 months. Though the Government of Karnataka provide the artisans with seasoned wood the manufacturers still prefer buying it from the local market and season it under their roof for it is much cost effective. Now the wood goes through the lacware process where small pieces are mounted on lathe machine and with the help of different types of chisel the wood is shaped in spherical, circular or oval shapes as per the required design. Once the desired shape is achieved they are rubbed with sand paper so that it is smoothened further. The artisans press the lacquer stick against the wooden piece while it is still on lathe and due to the heat produced by friction lacquer gets applied on the wood. The gleam and shine of the product is achieved by applying lacquer and then uniformly spread with the aid of a dried palm leaf on the surface.
GEOMETRICAL INSTRUMENTS LIKE THE VERNIER CALIPERGeometrical instruments like the vernier caliper and the divider is used frequently to measure the size and maintain the accuracy. At this stage the product is removed from the lathe and in case of two different parts they are assembled together and then followed with surface embellishment which involves other decorative adorning on the surface of the toy. The natural vegetable colors used are Yellow from Turmeric, Blue �Black � Indigo, Orange � kanchi kum kum powder, Red � Natural Alizarin and kum kum powder; green � indigo and turmeric; light brown � katha; dark brown � ratanjyot. In spite of all the merits of the wooden toy industry, it faced a major setback and a financial crunch and was about to be wiped off. However the KHDC -Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation came forward and helped the industry where they trained the artisans according to the changing trends and also updating the present scenario.
MASTER CRAFTSMEN OF THE TOY INDUSTRY-The master craftsmen of the toy industry came up with new prototypes and taught the local artisans to create well-designed wooden toys and dolls. The Government of Karnataka has also provided help by constructing a Lacquer ware Craft Complex, which has a manufacturing centre with 32 turning lathe machines, at Channapatna. The Vishwa scheme of the Karnataka Government and the Dutch Government are assisting the artisans financially. The coming of many plastic toys under different brand names has become one of the biggest challenges for the Channapatna toys and thus giving the outlook as if they are exorbitantly priced. During the visit of Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States to India, she bought the wooden toys of Channapatna for her daughters. The main market for the wooden toys are domestic where the Maya Organic NGO sold toys worth about Rs 89 lakh in 2009.The government cannot afford distributors abroad for exports like the private players.
WOODEN TOYS ARE NOT ONLY DOLLS
-The wooden toys are not only dolls but the industry is also good at making different types of toys like tops, trains, bullock-cart, small vintage cars, bikes and scooters and animals like tortoise. Other items made at Channapatna include wall hangers, candle stands, jewelry, beads, earrings, key chains, etc and easily sold in the market. These are also exported to different parts of the country. Toys are also manufactured based on the buyers demand and requirement. From the early 1990's, many artisans began using traditional methods to make products like napkin rings for the export market. The demand for napkin rings has waned since, but organically colored toys continue to be in demand. The artisans of the wooden toy industry get a work shade ready at home itself where nearly 40 -50 people work together in the same environment with all essential facilities provided to the artisans.
WORK ENVIRONMENT IS TO BE HIGHLY VENTILATED-The work environment is to be highly ventilated and now the artisans are equipped with proper machine, tools, and raw materials. The wages paid to the craftsmen vary depending upon the parts of the toy each one manufacture. Though the artisans do not have any major health claims but can get to see deep gashes and bruises all over their hands due to hazards associated with the lathe machines. Whenever there are exhibitions held at major cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai the craftsmen take part in the exhibitions and display the traditional toys.
DEALERS OF ORIGINAL CHANNAPATNA TOYS
|1. S Shantala Toys Emporeum, Near Shivalli Resturant, Bangalore ,Mysore Road, Muddugere, Channapatna - 571501, Ph: 8971444167|
|2. K Abdul Kareemson, M G Road, Channapatna Ho, Channapatna - 571501, Ph: (0802) 27254027|
|3. S Sri Raghavendra Enterprises, #312, Near Balaji Takies, 4th Cross, M. G. Layout, Channapatna Ho, Channapatna - 571501, Ph: 9964371812|
|4. B Bahar Toy Factory, No .-33, Handicraft Quarters, Channapatna Ho, Channapatna - 571501, Ph: 9379776551|
|5. Mohit Soft Toys , Bunglow, Opposite Tulsi Appartment, Bunglow Area, Kubernagar, Ahmedabad - 382340, Ph: 989862062326|
|6. S Sri Lakshmi Toys Emporium, Near Chida Arts, B M Road Kuvempunagar, Channapatna Ho, Channapatna - 571501 ,Ph: 9980010419|