Channapatna's woodcraft to get new sheen

Channapatna's woodcraft to get new sheen

Channapatna’s crafts park is aimed at reviving traditional woodcraft and introducing mechanised facilities for production. This will enable craftsmen to produce products that match international standards.     

     

If you travel along the Mysore-Bangalore Highway and reach Channapatna town, colourful wooden toys, rattles, spinning tops, key chains, dolls, bangles, beaded wooden seat covers will not fail to draw your attention. Scratch the surface, and you will realise that inside Kala Nagar, the artisans’ village, all is not well.

Kala Nagar in Channapatna was developed as an artisans’ village, where the artisans lived and worked. Over the years, lack of demand for the products, high input costs and cheaper Chinese toys led to the decline of this once prosperous vocation. Most of the artisans have drifted away to other professions. Others are struggling to eke out a living.

Channapatna has a crafts cluster of over 3,000 traditional artisans engaged in the production of lacquerware. The artisans use the technique of lac-turney by which wood is turned on a lathe and manipulated to form circular shapes. While it is being turned, the wood is given a coating of resin lac and paint, and polished with a screwpine leaf which helps to spread the lacquer and give the wood a shine.

The craft is said to have been pioneered by Baba Saheb Mayan Saheb at the turn of the last century. Baba, also known as Bavasmia, was at that time, the superintendent of the local government industrial school. He introduced this craft to his students who adopted this craft as a vocation and, in turn, spread the knowledge to the local populace.

The wood used is hale or writia tinctoria, a soft wood found locally and which lends itself easily for the turning operation.  As the craft progressed, Channapatna became a busy centre for the export of turned wood products. There are  about 300 manufacturing units. Skilled artists paint multi-coloured patterns on the wooden products. The colourful products became very fashionable in the international market. Export of fashion jewellery and napkin rings grew.

But, things changed. Sreekala Kadilal, Regional Coordinator for the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH), says, “As the demands and the tastes of the international market changed, the sameness of the products of Channapatna brought fewer orders. The crafts cluster was unable to cope with the constantly changing fashions. Lack of production facilities, inadequate knowledge of market preferences, lack of production innovation and diversification had a crippling effect. Exports declined and artisans turned to other activities to earn a living.”

It was at this juncture that the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH), the apex body of the Government of India for the development and promotion of handicrafts in the international market, conceived the idea of a crafts park at Channapatna to revive the craft tradition and introduce mechanised facilities for production to enable craftsmen to produce products of good quality to match international specifications of design and size.

Karnataka State Small Industries Development Corporation Limited (KSSIDC) offered 14 acres of land at Channapatna for the project. The Department of Industries and Commerce, Government of Karnataka sanctioned Rs 650 lakh under the ‘Assistance to states for developing export infrastructure and allied activities’ (ASIDE) scheme of the Government of India. The Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Government of India, offered financial assistance for the procurement of machinery for woodcraft.

A Common Facility Service Centre (CFSC) with sophisticated woodcraft machinery has been established and has commenced operations. This common facility for woodcraft will be utilised not just by the exporters but also by the entire artisan community. Most of the machinery would be too expensive for individual artisans to buy by themselves.

Plots have been distributed among exporters of woodcraft. A Swiss architect has been engaged to design each one of the individual manufacturing centres.

Furniture, kitchen accessories, educational toys, corporate gifts, living room accessories, fashion jewellery are some of the products that will be manufactured at the Crafts Park.
A Channapatna Crafts Park Society has been formed to administer the Crafts Park.

Machinery for the natural fibre centre, wood seasoning and treatment plant, effluent treatment plant and display centre are on the cards with State government assistance.

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