Beautiful wooden-lacquer toys and trinkets catch your eye not just because they are colourful but because it’s a traditional Indian craft seeing a revival. The Channapatna Toys are a special kind of wooden toys that are made in Bengaluru at a town called Channapatna. The artisans and Indian handicrafts makers create these toys and the specialty about them is that they are beautifully hand-painted. These toys will often also remind you of your own childhood because in traditional India only such kinds of toys were available. These days, however, a lot of people are again making a choice of such products for their babies. These toys are environment friendly. Once discarded, they will mingle from where they came, without even causing an inch of damage to the environment. Therefore, the parents can make a smart choice for their children.
Meet one such artisan Mr Bhupathi, who make such toys and comes from a family of professional wood carving artisans. He learnt this art from his father and thereafter under the guidance of learned scholar in the field. He has been active within India’s Fair Trade community and is himself an accomplished craftsperson. He originally learned wood carving and turning from his father Madhavachari, a state awardee. Madhavachari, a traditional wood craftsman, hailed from Tirupati, making temple chariots among other woodcraft. He, along with a few other artisan families, migrated to Bangalore in the 1960s, where they were trained by the Regional Design and Technical Development Centre.
After his marriage, Bhupathi was given responsibility of supporting his extended family. At the same time, he began to observe the business practices of retail agents in the community, and decided he wanted to bypass these intermediaries and create an organisation that would benefit the artisans. Bhupathi then established Shilpa Trust in 1992.
Shaping wood into various forms is resulting in shaping lives of numerous artisans. Shilpa Trust provides artisans with children’s educational assistance, free health check-ups, social security insurance, a loan program, skill training and product development. Being an organization formed for the upliftment of artisans both men and women without any gender discrimination SHILPA is stressing for their betterment. It is said that great artists are born, not made. Some artisans get their trade and skills from their family, who are engaged in their traditional crafts. But often, impoverished artisans need a thrust from a voluntary organisation to be successful in their craft. This is where Shilpa Trust comes in. The Trust works with economically disadvantaged artisans, many of whom have not had access to education. The artisans are based within small workshops, many of which are family owned and quite small. These workshops produce a variety of wooden products, including toys, games and ornaments. The Trust has a workshop located in Channapatna Craft Park in Channapatna town. It provides artisans with children’s educational assistance, free health check-ups, social security insurance, a loan programme, skill training and product development.
Shilpa trains the craftspersons on how to use the new tools and in developing new designs to cater to the urban tastes and above all, enable them to market their goods profitably. As many as 360 artisans attached to Shilpa Trust are making lacquerware toys and utility items, wood carving, statues and door carving, sandalwood statues and carvings, teakwood furniture. The Trust also provides financial assistance for buying tools required by the craftspersons. Artisans are empowered by the trust by the way of marketing, certifications and product upgrade.
“Artisans should learn to change their mindset. Instead of blaming their circumstances, they should adapt themselves to the changing trends and requirements of the market,” says Bhupathi.
The evolution from being an artisan to an entrepreneur would not have been possible without his high commitment to Fair Trade.