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In the early development stages of the Etikoppaka toys, they were only used by children as toys to play with. The natural dyes and wood used in these toys made them safe to play with and durable.
However, gradually the Etikoppaka toys adapted to a broad usage. Today, they can be used as toys, decoration items, utility items and even gift items.
For a long period, these toys were a part of the everyday lives of the people living here and in the neighbouring villages. The different toy varieties such as the spinning tops, rattles, and animal figures brought a smile to every child’s face. Many of the Etikoppaka boxes also became famous for storing jewellery and sacred materials like vermillion. These toys became so popular that several South Indian traditions became attached to them. For example, every girl child was gifted a kitchen set or ‘lakkapidathalu,’ consisting of colourful vessels, ladles, stoves and even grinders for her first birthday. They also became a part of the wedding traditions and were used for the bride’s trousseau to carry Haldi Kumkum, betel nuts and other aromatic substances. They became so popular that they began to be sold at country fairs, weekly markets, railway stations and even bus stands.
The artisans here produce a variety of toys that are inspired by the rich Indian heritage. They design and craft mythological figures from ancient civilizations like Mohenjo-Daro, simple toys featuring animals and spinning tops, and even elaborate toys such as door hangings and deity figurines that cater to the adult preferences.
Today, the usage of this handicraft has expanded even further. Apart from being used as toys, jewellery boxes and cultural emblems, these toys are also being used for decoration purposes, for example, the Etikoppaka door hangings have become increasingly prevalent, and as utility products such as the water bowls that are used to feed birds. Due to their attractive colours, soft finish and inextricable link with the Indian heritage, these toys are also used for gifting purposes.
Over the years, the continuous efforts of the artisans and their dedication towards this craft have made it possible for them to adapt to the market in a way that allows them to expand their consumer base and ensure that this handicraft finds its relevance even in the modern-day. Many modern retailers today are marketing the Etikoppaka toys as mid-range luxury products that are ‘treasures to treasure for a lifetime.’
There are various reasons due to which the Etikoppaka toys form a significant part of our society and culture. From their craftsmanship to their colours and utility- the Etikoppaka toys have captured the eyes and hearts of plenty.
The town of Etikoppaka, where these toys are designed and crafted has gained its reputation as the ‘toy village’ of India.
The Etikoppaka toys are considered to be ‘one with nature‘ since they are made purely out of natural elements such as seeds, lacquer, bark, roots and leaves. The wood-derived to make these toys comes from the ‘Ankudi Karra’ tree (Wrightia tinctoria) Thus, they do not contain any heavy metal or toxic item. This not only makes these toys environmental friendly and sustainable but also 100% safe for child usage. Therefore, many parents find themselves being inclined to these toys. These toys contribute to the safety of children and of the environment making them popular and relevant in the current socio-economic climate.
The artisans who engage in this craft have received several awards from forum likes the National Innovation Foundation, UNESCO CCI Seal /Award of Excellence for Handicrafts and so on. Moreover, these toys have also been displayed at various prestigious venues like the Rashtrapathi Bhawan. Various organizations like the National Institute of Design (NID) have helped these artisans by conducting workshops for them to help them gain an understanding of the popular market designs.
The Geographical Indication (GI) tag provided to these toys in 2017 has further contributed to their significance. This has allowed the counterfeit market issue to be tackled and for the sale of these toys to increase multi-fold. Due to their excellent quality, brilliant designs and a level craftsmanship, these toys are sold not only in our country but also worldwide. Many countries like the USA, Australia, France, Italy, and Germany import the Etikoppaka toys from India to sell or to display as decoration pieces in their museums.
These toys have also received a boost from various cooperate showrooms such as the local company Novotel Vizag that are using these toys as cooperate gifts. Therefore, the Etikoppaka toys are famous not just as toys but also as socially appropriate gifting items.
The softly rounded contours, redefined polished colours and overall craftsmanship of these toys set them apart from others. These toys cost about 50 rupees for small toys and run till about a thousand rupees for more complex objects.
The journey of success by the Etikoppaka artisans and their toys show that in an age wherein cultures and societies are being increasingly homogenized, traditional handicrafts like the Etikoppaka toys have given a unique identity and a sense of pride to a small village.
Since these toys have been a significant part of Indian culture and tradition, there are several myths and legends that are associated with it.
However, one of the most prominent ones is regarding the lac used to over the toys. The word lac itself comes from the Sanskrit word, ‘laksha.’ This lac was known to be borne out of ancient India and the legend of the Mahabharata. It is believed that the Pandavas were fleeing a house of lac and from there lac originated as a resource and material. Today, it is believed that several ancient lac coated houses in Andhra Pradesh have survived till modern day. Its prevalence in Andhra Pradesh can be seen through the flourishing lac industry and several villages such as ‘Lakkavaram,’ and ‘Lakkavarapukota’ have been named after it.
When it comes to the Etikoppaka toys themselves, the toys feature inspiration from various legends. Several scenes from the Mahabharata are depicted in these toys that serve as reminders of our rich history and also as educational sources for children playing with them.
It is believed that the toy-making legacy in Etikoppaka was inherited in the early 18th century from a village 25 kilometres away from Etikoppaka called Nakkapalli (originally known as laccapalli) Somewhere around the early 20th century, the artisans from this region migrated to Etikoppaka due to abundance of suitable wood yielding trees. In earlier times, these artisans used to make temple carts.
It is believed that the patronage to make these Etikoppaka toys came from the Rajas of Vijayanagram who migrated to this region around the same time and as landlords who acted as catalysts. Subsequently, one of the landlords decided to transform this tradition into a business enterprise so that the art and artisans could earn an independent income and sustain their livelihood. In 1906, the application of lacquer was introduced in the making of Etikoppaka Toys. Soon, the craftsman of Etikoppaka, with their unique skill & creativity started making other crafts on the hand lathe machine. During this transition, dyes and processes that enhanced the elegance and quality of artistic production were introduced. Over the years, the craft has been indefinitely perfected. This reflects the artisans’ relationship with their ancestral, cultural, ethnic, historic, mystic and religious subjects as well as contemporary civic and natural surroundings.
One of the most beautiful parts about the history of the Etikoppaka toys is that every element used in these toys has its history and evolution.
The most noteworthy and unpopular historical fact about these toys is that, traditionally, these toys were packed and sold in attractive handmade containers woven from palm folds. This was considered to be an art form in itself. However, gradually, this handicraft began to decline and only the product inside, that is, the Etikoppaka toys continued to sell.
Ever since the beginning, natural dyes were used for coating these toys, however, for a brief period in between, these had been replaced by chemical dyes due to a lack of artisans. Soon after, the demand for the Etikoppaka toys began falling since the parents purchasing these toys grew sceptical of the chemicals being used and their plausible harmful impacts on their children. Seeing this, the artisans switched back to natural dyes and ever since then have taken multiple steps to expand their market and evolve their products.
Therefore, one can conclude that the history of these toys is as rich as their quality. What makes these toys more special is that they have been able to withstand all changes in Indian society- from colonialism to globalization.
When it comes to design, the Etikoppaka toys have been able to establish their own unique identity since they feature a multitude of designs and colours on different objects. The number of colours and design combinations seems endless to the consumer’s eye.
The colours on these toys run as wild as the imagination- every single toy features shades that fall everywhere on the colour wheel. From dark blues to mellow pinks, from earthy greens to pastel yellows- the toys are coloured in shades found in and between the different permutations and combinations of primary colours. Moreover, the shiny lac coated surface on the toy ensures to match the twinkle in the eyes of the children, making them more attractive and desirable.
What sets apart the design of the Etikoppaka toys from other handmade toys such as the Kondapalli dolls is that the features on the faces of these toys are painted and drawn not carved like those seen in the Kondapalli dolls. This feature itself is a key to understanding the design of the Etikoppaka toys since the painting of features allows for the artisans to portray more animation to the figures which further adds to the childlike innocence of the toys and makes them more cartoon-like. This widely appeals to the children. Moreover, the painting of fine lines and designs onto the toys speaks volumes about the different artistic skills possessed by the Etikoppaka artisans.
In making new designs, apart from the individual designers, the Etikoppaka artisans are helped by the School of Fine Arts, Andhra University; the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad; and M.S.University, Baroda. Dastkar Andhra was instrumental both in developing new designs and also in introducing Shri K V Chandramouli, the natural dyes expert, to Etikoppaka. Shri Chandramouli taught the artisans how to use natural dyes mixed in the lac. The artisans can achieve considerable variation in design with the help of the various chisels at their disposal. Designs vary from product to product. At times, designs are specifically mentioned if there is a big order. The designs currently being made are a product of any of the following:
a) The artisans’ creation
b) Customers’ requirements
c) Market feedback
The artisans also get design inputs from certain crafts magazines and journals, which give them pointers for colours and features.
At present, there is a wide range of toys that are being crafted. Some of the Etikoppaka toys can be categorized as follows-
• Toys: Tic-tac Toes, trucks, cars, bikes, etc.,
• Utilitarian: Bowls, Spice jars, Kumkum boxes, candle &bangle stands, Jewellery boxes, etc.,
• Decorative: Wall hanging, Photo frames, Wind chants, Door Panels, etc
• Jewelleries: Wooden Bangles, Hairpins, Hair Clips, Ear drops, Kurta Buttons, Chains & Necklace, Beads, etc
At present, some other toys such as images of gods, candle stands, oil bottles, cups, ornaments, photo frames, jewellery boxes, bangles and bangle stands are There is a wide range of toys for children of all age groups.
These toys have undergone a series of design adaptations. Toys are changing with time and market demands. Etikoppaka is a small village and the artisans have a very limited market here. Therefore, the market of Etikoppaka is being dominated by the middlemen. The original traditional designs have a very little requirement in the market these days. The artisans are making the toys depending on the customization instructions given by the middlemen such as home decoration items.
Sketches with measurements are given to the artisan to make the small products precisely. They also work out many products through their imagination. These artisans are highly skilled and can figure out the technical nuances of any product within the limitation. Design inspirations are also taken from South Indian temple pillars, old brass utensils, Barinis.
There are several reasons why the Etikoppaka toys are considered unique. Some of these are-
Etikoppaka Toys are handcrafted and naturally lacquered on the hand lathe machine by use of natural dyes. The products from Etikoppaka display the vivid creativity of the artisans. Over the years, this craft has been indefinitely perfected to reflect the artisans’ relationship with their ancestral, cultural, ethnic, historic, mystic and religious subjects as well as contemporary civic and natural surroundings.
The uniqueness of these ties lies in the fact that they have become a symbol of unique craftsmanship in making turned wood lacquer crafts in the region and are being practised since the 18th century. Etikoppaka toys are greatly known in the local and international market due to their skill and creativity.
3. Geographical Factor
The making of Etikoppaka Toys employs ivory wood/softwood as the main raw material which is locally known as “Ankudu Karra”. Ankudu Karra is grown in the nearby local forests which are around 30-40 Km from Etikoppaka. It is softwood, easy to work with, withstands working heat, takes polish well, gives a good finish and offers no loss of material right from seasoning to finished product. These qualitative characteristics of the wood make it unique for crafting toys.
4. Human Skill
The way of colouring the toys while it keeps moving on a lathe machine is very unique to Etikoppaka toys. It requires a great amount of human skill to deliver the finished products. The wooden log is attached to the heat generated which makes the lac soft and adhere to the product. After drying, the product is given a smooth finish. The craftsman later rubs the product with Mogule leaves which impart a brilliant shine onto the toys.
The Etikoppaka toys have undergone enormous changes in their technology usage, market and design due to the various challenges they have faced.
This craft saw a decline during colonial rule as a part of the colonial policy that aimed at breaking the sustainable economic systems of India. In 1988, however, it came back to life with the efforts of many people such as Mr C.V Raju, who played a great role together with Uzra Bilgrami, in reviving the craft. This was done by introducing new product ranges inspired by traditional products but keeping in mind the modern requirements. Mr Raju, an agriculturist by education has been working with this craft for the past years now.
A major challenge faced by this industry is the availability of the wood Ankudu that is used for making toys. Earlier, the Forest Department had been imposing a fine on these artisans, and there were no legal means of obtaining wood directly from the forest other than buying from the vendors directly. Each member had to pay Rs 10/ a month as a tax, irrespective of whether they used the wood from the forest or not. The Forest Protection Committee is now tackling this problem through the plantation of this species over the last four years.
Another difficulty faced by this industry is the storage of wood. The wood sometimes develops cracks even when necessary care is taken. Once the wood develops cracks, it cannot be used and the investment is a waste.
A major hindrance for the artisans in Etikoppaka is the absence of a regular power supply to run the lathes. Etikoppaka gets power effectively only for six hours during the day. This reduces the total man-hours of work. Moreover, working at night not only affects the artisans’ health but also the quality of the product.
Another major challenge faced by this industry is the sale of plastic toys. These toys are cheap and colourful which attract both children and parents. To counter this problem, many artisans began replacing the natural dyes with chemical ones to reduce the price. However, due to this change, the market fell drastically. After realizing this, many of the artisans shifted back to natural dyes to restore the old allure and magnificence of the craft. On the organic front, as natural dyes tend to be fugitive and more expensive, many artisans continue working with chemical dyes. Exposure to these chemicals results in the deterioration of their health. This also implies that they fail to reap fair trade benefits which require the use of eco-friendly dyes.
At present, the main 3 challenges faced by this industry are-
1. Production has not been re-oriented sufficiently to suit the present-day market and the designs required.
2. Predominance of middlemen on whom the artisans depend entirely for credit and marketing
3. Lack of extended and direct marketing facilities
The journey of this handicraft corroborates the phrase, ‘innovate or perish.’ In a globalized world, these products need to reach the global marketplace to ensure their continuation and relevance. More efforts are needed for the sustainable cultivation of the Ankudu trees. Many believe that if so is not done, the hum from the lathe machines will be silenced forever and the children of India will be deprived of a cultural legacy.
Most of the artisans practising the craft of Etikoppaka toy-making belong to Vishwa brahmin, Devanga, Gouda, Padmasali, Konda, Setty baliga, Kapu castes.
Despite the challenges faced by this industry as a whole, the labour records some positive and uplifting experiences that have allowed them to withstand several ups and downs in the market and come out even stronger in the face of modernity. Several individuals and institutions have helped this industry get back on track and gain the positionality it occupies today.
The quality of the Etikoppaka Toys is inspected by artisans themselves, as they are the best judge for the crafts. The inspection begins from the beginning i.e. seasoning; the wood is kept for seasoning for a minimum of 4-6 months to ensure that the moisture content from the raw material is properly removed. Once satisfied that the wood has been seasoned properly, it is put on a lathe machine for smoothening. Afterwards, at every step depending on the different crafts which are being made, chiselling and filling regular checks are done to ensure that the steps/things have been carried out properly as per the requisite specification. With the rotation of the lathe machine, the artisan shapes and designs the products. Every artisan has its tools for the accuracy of the dimension of the product. Also, after making the product, it checked for colour contrasts, rough finishing, and shade variations.
After several such initiatives and support, the artisans got quality conscious and started the use of natural coloured lac that they prepared in their own houses with the use of natural dyes. At present, the artisans of the region have learned the making of natural colours and the use of chemical dyes has been eliminated. The artisans of Etikoppaka have also been involved in raising the Ankudu plantations using Joint Forest Management (JFM) concept. At the beginning of the current century, over 67,000 saplings were planted and grown in about 120 hectares of forest and non-forest areas.
The Ministry of Textiles also conducted two workshops for these artisans in 2017 to help them and promote the industry.
The contribution of CV Raju is the most integral contribution made to this industry by any individual. Raju was a landlord and local artisan himself. To make the wood more accessible, he negotiated with the Forest authorities and encouraged several families to take part in the Community Forest Management Programme. This was done to grow more Ankudu trees and other dye bearing species. Raju conducted several experiments with the dyes that were used in the handloom industry. Upon doing so, a realization that he could use a new range of blends such as ochre, olive green, indigo blue, turquoise and so on, dawned upon him. When these blends were combined with the lacquer, the Etikoppaka toys began featuring a new form of vibrancy and lustre. Today, the subdued colours of these toys are considered to be a sight for sore eyes and their elegance and beauty is considered to be marvellous.
Over the last 20 years, the artisans here have been generating their raw materials. These artisans have been allocated 300 acres of land for the development and regeneration of raw material.
Several recommendations have also been made to improve the labour experiences and further strengthen this industry-
1. The traditional toy industry should have organized operations under cooperative society or rural communities. This will help in collective bargaining and will avoid the hierarchy of middlemen.
2. These toys need to implement the marketing strategies such as Branding, Positioning and advertising.
3. Under the organized operations there should be consistent participation in promotional programs such as trade shows and handicraft exhibitions. Societies should build associations with state handicrafts corporations and other promotional organizations for collaborated operations.
4. Geographical identifications (G.I) for the toys can play a major role in building trust and goodwill for the industry. Also, there should be extended arm operations to online marketing. Studies reveal that the share of internet retailing in sales grew from 1 % in 2007 up to 18 % in 2016.
5. Extended support from central government such as new regulations in import policies to control the large import of cheap and hazardous products.
6. Government authorities also help in creating awareness in common people by creating a national campaign on traditional organic toys.
The process of making the Etikoppaka toys is also known as turned wood lacquer craft or ‘Tharini.’ Approximately two men are required for making a single product.
The designing and carving out of the Etikoppaka toys is an elaborate process that requires the usage of unique raw materials and tools. The intricacy and creativity required in this process contribute to their speciality and significant positionality in society. Over the years, the process of making these toys has undergone a series of changes due to various factors. At present, successful attempts have been made to ensure that the toys are 100% eco-friendly and their designs are popular not only amongst children but also adults.
The following raw materials are required in the process of making the Etikoppaka toys-
Wood- The main raw material used for making the Etikoppaka toys is ivory wood. This wood is commercially known as ‘dhudhi,’ scientifically known as ‘Wrightia tinctoria’ (Family: Apocynaceae) and locally known as, ‘Ankudu Karra.’
This wood is known for being soft and possessing excellent qualities that can be put to use in the toy-making process. Some of these qualities are- softness, being easy to work and polish, withstanding heat, providing a good finish and most importantly, ensuring that there is no loss of material from the seasoning to the finished product. Therefore, all local craftsmen make use of this wood for the Etikoppaka toys.
This wood comes from widely available local trees that are present in a nearby forest approximately 30-40 kilometres away from Etikoppaka. The logs for making the toys come in different sizes depending upon the type of toy that is to be made. The length of the wood is not a main determining criterion and most of the time, lops and tops of the trees are used to make these toys. However still, a girth between 2.5-15.2 centimetres is ideal and preferred. For some larger and heavier toys, the tree trunk may be utilized. After the tree is cut, it is stored in shade for 3 months to allow moisture evaporation.
The price for the wood ranges between 4-15 rupees for a log of wood that is 2-10 inches thick and 1 foot long.
Lac- Lac is a colourless resinous secretion of numerous lac insects. There are mainly 2 types of lac that are used in the making of the Etikoppaka toys. These are Rangeen and Kusumi. Kusumi is considered to be of better quality, lighter in colour, with a longer time cycle and double the price of Rangeen.
Dyes- Different procedures are used for the preparation of different coloured dyes. The raw material for making these dyes is brought from various parts of multiple plants and trees. These parts are then powered and melted at 90 degrees Celsius to produce a thick solution till lather is formed. The concentrates are then filtered to remove all dust particles. After this, natural colours are mixed with lacquer for the production of the desired colours. Local resources are used for the preparation of natural dyes. These include- leaves, flowers, seeds, the skin of fruits and barks. The shades and colours of the dyes depend on the boiling temperature, duration of boiling, water quantity and raw material boiled. This concentrate is then cooled off and filtered to get mixed with the lacquer. Many of the colours have a systematic and complex method of production.
Some of the materials used for producing specific colours are-
• Yellow- Anar, Annanatto seeds
• Brown- Kattha
• Pink- Chavalakundi
• Green- Indigo
• Indigo Blue- Indigo crystals
• Black- Kasim
According to the old Etikoppaka artisans, before 1910, the dyes were made out of a tree known as Divi Divi or Caesalpinia Coriaria. However, artisans could only get the colour red and its different shades. However, this tree has now become extinct.
After 1910, synthetic/chemical dyes were introduced in the market and these quickly began replacing the natural dyes. However, the usage of chemical dyes resulted in many national and foreign customers rejecting the Etikoppaka toys because these dyes made the toys harmful and toxic. Consequently, the sales of these toys began decreasing. After analysing the situation, the artisans switched back to natural dyes and gradually began earning back their reputation and clients.
Some examples of natural dyes and their sources are as follows-
• Orange/Red- Anato or Jabra
• Brick red- majistha
• Honey ochre- Karaka poovu
• Bright yellow- Pendicalu (Kapila)
• Yellow- turmeric
• Grey- Amala
• Brown- Ratanjot
These natural dyes are available between the price range of 20-100 rupees.
The following tools and technology is used in the designing and production of the elegant Etikoppaka toys-
• Lathe Machine– The lathe machine is the main tool on which designs and polishing work are done with the help of different chisels (vuli). Earlier, the craftsman used to work on hand lathe machines since there was no electricity in this region. However, after the modernization of these areas, technological advancement has led to electric lathes increasingly replacing the hand lathes. This lathe machine is fitted between two crossed wood pieces. The lathe machine is run on a 1HP motor and connected with a belt. One side of the lathe machine is fitted to the crossed wood and the other side is fitted to the raw wood to be shaped.
• Badithi– This is an axe-shaped tool that is used to scrape one end of the wooden piece to fit it into the lathe machine.
• Goru Chisel– This tool is made of iron and has two sides. One side fits the crossed wood and the other side bears the shape of a nail. This chisel is used for giving shapes and curves to the Etikoppaka toys.
• Manu Chisel– This tool is a rectangular shaped chisel that is used for cutting and shaping wood.
• Low Chisel– This tool is similar to the nail-shaped chisel. It is specifically used to make holes in the Etikoppaka toys.
• Kuja Chisel & Pogaru Chisel– These are two similar tools used for making small carvings on the Etikoppaka toys.
• Emery Paper– This is a paper with crystals on one surface and is used to make the semi-finished Etikoppaka toys smooth before colour application.
• Mogule Aaku– This is a fragrant leaf. These leaves are mainly available in coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh (namely Vishakapatnam). These leaves are first dried in the sun and then used for the final finishing (polishing) of the product. This polishing is done after applying the colours.
When you enter the workshop of the Etikoppaka toy artisans, you are bound to believe that their work is like devotion. The room echoes with the humming of the lathe machines and blotches of multicoloured prisms are created by the natural dyes. Photographs of Ganesha, the deity of prosperity and that of Laxmi, the deity of wealth are decorated with vermillion and adored with sweet-smelling flower garlands, pasted onto the simple white walls of the room. Before commencing the journey of producing these toys, the Etikoppaka toy artisans seek the blessing of these Gods with the hope that their work, similar to utmost godly devotion, will bring them fortune and wealth. They believe that these blessings will allow them to successfully finish their work.
This tradition of toy making dates back to about a hundred years. In earlier days, various affluent landlords of this region used to patronize these toymakers to make toys for their children. Everything from animal figurines to wooden cannons to kitchen sets- these artisans crafted the toys as per the demands of the landlords. Even today, a tradition is followed in this region wherein baby girls are gifted an Etikoppaka toy kitchen set for their first birthdays.
The process of making the Etikoppaka toys is also known as turned wood lacquer craft or ‘Tharini.’ Approximately two men are required for making a single product.
This process can be categorized into the following stages-
The wooden logs of the ‘Anakadi Karra’ tree are procured from the local forest. These logs are kept under the truss of the artisans’ houses for a seasoning of a minimum of three to six months. This allows the wooden logs to shed excess moisture. Ideally, seasoning is done by keeping the logs in dark and closed rooms to let the moisture evaporate. No biological damage of any kind (even that of fungi) is reportedly experienced during seasoning. After seasoning is over, the wood is then ready to be used for the production of different kinds of toys.
2. Cutting and Shaping
After seasoning, the wood is cut down into suitable lengths for making toys.
Further, the wooden logs are placed onto the lathe machine. As the wooden log rotates on a lathe machine, the artisans shape and design the products with help of various carpentry tools.
Lacquering is done by hand or with the help of a machine-operated lathe. In this process, the wooden blocks are temporarily fixed on the machine and the lac stick is pressed against the toy. The toy keeps moving and the heat generated makes the lac soft and adhere to the product. After drying, the product is given a smooth finish. The craftsman later rubs the product with Mogule leaves which impart a brilliant shine on the toys. From small toys and tops for children to candle holders, Etikoppaka artisans make a wide range of products using different colours and shades.
After the desired shape for the toy is produced by the artisan, colouring is done on the lathe, hand or machine operated. For making slender and delicate items, the hand lathe is considered more suitable. Dry lac is pressed against the object to be lacquered, while it is on the lathe. As the lathe operates, it generates heat due to friction between the lac and wooden object.
The generated heat melts the lac and a uniform coating of coloured lac is placed on the object. Finally, the item is ready for polishing. The dried leaves of screw pine
(Pandanus fascicularis Lam., Pandanaceae) particularly those growing in coastal areas are used to achieve at a bright sheen. Despite using different colours, the artisan can get a uniform shine on all of them which speaks volumes about his skill and artistry.
Before the products are dispatched for sale to the market, they are inspected for any blemishes. This includes- rough finishing, shade variations, breakages, and so on. This is done to ensure that the final touch or finishing of the product is perfectly done.
The ivory wood required to make the Etikoppaka toys requires a certain measurement between the ranges of 2.5-15 centimetres. This length is chosen depending entirely upon the type of toy that is to be made. However, girths above 15 cm result in a tremendous wastage of raw material. Therefore, the artisans are required to ensure that they do not waste this wood.
The wood sometimes develops cracks even when necessary care is taken. Once the wood develops cracks, it cannot be used and the investment is a waste.
Shavings obtained during the turning process are used as fuel for cooking and are also made into mosquito repellents. The wood powder is mixed with cow dung, neem leaf and Sambarani & burnt to keep mosquitoes away. The smallest possible beads are made out of the last piece of wood. Thus, the artisans ensure that minimum to no wastage takes place in the production process.
Moreover, the artisan families participate in the Community Forest Management programme for growing more Ankudu trees (from which the wood is obtained), in addition to other dye bearing species. A completely new range of attractive colours like ochre, olive green, turquoise and indigo blue are obtained here.
However, one can easily say that these Etikoppaka toys are 100% eco friendly and safe in comparison to their plastic counterparts. The main problem with plastic toys is that they have a shorter lifeline and are also non-recyclable. Therefore, these plastic toys often end up reaching landfills. Various scientific studies have proven that wooden toys are not only more durable but also recyclable which makes them better alternatives to these plastic toys. The Etikoppaka toys are environmentally friendly since they make use of natural resources like wood and natural dyes. Moreover, purchasing these Etikoppaka toys lends support to local artisans and the age-old Indian handicraft industry that finds itself struggling against its decline in the face of globalization.
List of craftsmen.