India's rich cultural heritage and centuries of evolutionary tradition are kept alive by 7 million artisans toiling every day to produce the huge variety of handicrafts made all over India.
In central parts of south India, a group of highly skilled artisans are using a design thinking approach to make contemporary products using traditional methods. Providing fair jobs to the artisan sector in India is key to empowering many marginalised groups struggling for livelihood as getting white-collar jobs through theoretical schooling is a goal for most, and by many, seen as the only way of getting out of the low-income groups. By providing these artisans with a livelihood, artisans are also given the opportunity to grow through fair job opportunities in craft-ship. Additionally, they also provide other services such as training, skill up-gradation, social security, healthcare and pandemic support. These services are provided by an NGO that works together with the producer.
The producer has a specific focus on creating toys that help children build their skill set from an early age. For instance, Rattle toys such as the Bell Rattle, Kit-Kat Rattle and Egg rattle, help build sensory, cause & effect and tracking (with sight & sound) skills. On the other hand, stacking toys help build sensory, fine Motor, curiosity, problem-solving, cause & effect and spatial intelligence. The toy handicraft is protected by a geographical Indicator awarded by the WTO and the producer is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization.
Even though the artisan group is especially passionate about toys, they also create a variety of functional interior products and are open to customizations.
The tree wood is collected and processed locally. Ivory wood is collected as this is soft, close-grained & good for carving. Ivory wood grows naturally in non-farm/non-forest lands. It's used for making a variety of toys and lacquerware. Once cut, the branches grow back so no tree is fully cut down. All sections of wood and leftover sawdust are used so there is no waste generated. No harmful chemicals are used in the process.
All toy materials are certificated and have gone through rigorous testing to ensure they are safe to use. 100% Natural Dyes (Lac) are used in colours and Toys are tested for Flammability, Migration of Certain Elements and Phthalates.
Lac, a natural resin, secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests of India, is used to dye the toys and other interior products in different colours. Thousands of lac insects populate the branches of the host trees and secrete the resinous pigment. The coated branches of the host trees are cut and harvested as stick lac. This is then used to help give the products a vibrant and unique look.
Durable | Sturdy | 100% natural dyes| No chemicals used | Toys are CE tested for baby and child safety
The production facility is within the city of Bangalore itself, here, highly skilled artisans work to create this unique variety of products. About 2000 artisan families depend on their livelihoods from this craft. The handicraft is protected by a Geographical Indicator awarded by WTO, stating that the products are made in India and possess assurance of quality and distinctiveness. Additionally, the products are compliant with the International Quality Compliance of European and US Safety Standards.
The production process is a mix of handiwork and machine-based work. First, the ivory wood is cut and shaped into the desired shape on a lathe spinning machine. Next, the lac is dyed using various careful combinations of natural colourants such as turmeric. This is done traditionally using a hot charcoal flame and by hand rolling it into sticks. Finally, the coloured lac sticks are pressed against the wood while turning on the lathe to evenly apply the colour to the product. For final touches, to obtain a beautiful shiny finish, the product is polished with a dry screw pine leaf.
As a WFTO member, they follow strict principles for workers' safety, capacity building, product quality and ensure there are good working conditions for their workers with fair trade practices and fair payment.
No harmful chemicals are used in the production and only 100% natural dyes are used, avoiding the use of synthetic dyes which are harmful to the environment as they emit glycol ethers, detergent, combustion gases, and reactive components that contribute to air pollution. Additionally, by using all of the wood and even leftover saw dust, no waste is generated.
UN Sustainable Development goal
By using all of the wood and leftover sawdust and ensuring there is no use of harmful chemicals used in the production of the products, this project contributes to target 12.4, "achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment"
Artisans are empowered through the availability of job opportunities and skilling. In addition to that, through access to services like healthcare and pandemic support, artisans are also looked after and their livelihoods are protected. Moreover, the market space availability for handmade products gives artisans real, living wages.
UN Sustainable Development goal
By contributing to providing livelihoods to local artisans and increasing their job prospects, this project contributes to target 8.5; "achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value"