Tuesday 22 July 2014

Varnam- reviving and re-interpreting an ancient craft

Channapatna toys are wooden hand crafted toys manufactured in Channapatna, a small rural town of Bangalore, Karnataka. These lacquered toys are a traditional craft that can be traced back to Tipu Sultan's reign. 

As a result of the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is also known as Gombegala Ooru (toy-town) of Karnataka. Its traditional craft is protected as a geographical indication (GI) under the World Trade Organization, administered by the Government of Karnataka. 

The Channapatna craft industry, which has been facing hard times because of competition from cheap Chinese toys as well as changing demands, is making a come back with the help of the government as well as individuals like Karthik Vaidyanathan, founder of Varnam, who are working closely with master craftsmen to revive this industry and bring it up to date with the times and current aesthetic trends. 

That brings me to Varnam. Varnam is a social enterprise that has been working with artisans in Channapatna for over two years now to reinterpret this 200 years old toy craft. The result is a series of home accents, jewelry and originally designed toys. Varnam was awarded the Kyoorius-Blue Elephant award and the CII Design Excellence award for its work in 2013.

Each product in this series has been painstakingly handcrafted by an artisan from Channapatna, Karnataka using the age-old tradition of lac-turnery, a craft that requires tremendous skill and precision. 

On July 3rd Varnam opened its flagship store in Bangalore. This little store is exclusively for handcrafted products that include toys, home accents and jewelry. So if you are ever in Bangalore, drop into Varnam. I'm sure you will love what you see and it will be impossible for you to resist taking away a piece of Karnataka via its most popular craft form. You can learn more about Varnam here.

No. 444, 5th Main
Between 13th& 14th Cross
Indiranagar 2nd stage
Bangalore 560038

Phone: 080-25250360.

[Photographs by Ashish Arora]

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