Monday, 23 November 2015

Post production and Marketing

In Natungram working areas of the local men starts from collecting woods to carving and all pre productions. But the most attractive part i.g . colouring part is done by the women of Natungram. Even the children are also helping their parents by colour the dolls with attractive designs.

Colouring has to be done by the female member of a family.They did an
wonderful job and create various motifs and designs by themselves.They have used lots of colours in the dolls like-green,yellow, black borders and red and sometimes blues can be used in making the owls and the other dolls. Basically they have used fabric colours
and oil paints in decorating the dolls. Sometimes they also have used blue lamps in the varnished products to crate varnishing shadow effects.Its basically a technique of burning the some areas of the products to crate the light and shade effects.

Packaging- Packaging can be done at the time of selling the products.They wrap around newspaper over the products and sell it.

A sea change can be seen in the products made by the artisans of Natungram.They are simply diversified and get a new form .The artisans of Natungram started their wood crafting 200 years ago .Since then the artisans making various types of wooden dolls for their livelihood. Now a days a change of colour, texture, and design can be seen. Colours are more vibrant like yellow,red,blue and bold black border of each part to define. Various complex and intricate wood carving techniques have been introduced. The design of the products are also varied from the older piece of products.Thay are more
attractive than earlier.Also various new products have been introduced in around 5 years ago like the owl lamp shades, owl sofa set, owl chairs and other similar products .The the wooden textured owl are also a new product in Natungram. Marketing and Finance Direct Sale to the customers through various fairs(mela)retail showrooms,exhibitions and to whole-sellers all over India happens. For exportable products the artisan doesn't sell directly,
they export their products through various export merchants and other NGOs and Govt. undertakakings to the market of countries like USA, UK, Australia, Germany and Middle Eastern Countries. Sometimes the small artisan is also found to be selling directly to the trader. This kind of selling is generally on poor economic terms for the artisan and could also be distress selling. But in Natungram people are dependent upon the fairs and the exhibitions mainly.They sell their products in fairs like-Kolkata Hasta Silpa Mela, Sobola Mela,Manjusha kutir slipe deptar mela, Saras mela and other handicraft fairs held in different places of Siliguri, Bardhaman, Bankura, Birbhum(Shantiniketan), Mayapur, Nawadwip and the like.

The domestic market for Wooden dolls are also changing. The consumers are becoming more discerning and would like to purchase handicrafts on value and merit, and not solely on empathy. Along with the importance of traditional marketing channels like exhibition ,handicraft fairs and sales in Indian cities, etc. the new channels such as e-commerce need to be explored more for the sake of these poor people.

Making the Doll

In Natungram some artisans choose interestingly shaped sticks or logs. A freshly cut log can present problems since it is still filled with a great deal of moisture. If the log dries too quickly it may check (crack) badly. It is best to let the log air dry for an extended period of time until it reaches an acceptable level of moisture content to prevent unwanted cracking. The alternative is to purchase kiln-dried wood that has been cut into boards. If a large block is required, the boards can be milled with a planer and joiner to give flat surfaces that can be glued together.
An advantage of gluing is that large, unusual shapes can be created, unlike the confining shape of a log. For carving small, hand-held craft objects, such as
small colourful owls,Raja-rani,Gour-netai,radha – krishna and other character figures, and chip carving (decorative designs on flat surfaces like the sides of
jewelry boxes), basswood is an excellent choice. It is soft and easy to carve, the close grain holds small carved detail, there are few knots or blemishes, and it is
stable when dry. However, basswood's softness makes it difficult to apply a stain evenly a carved surface or attain a glossy finish. Most basswood carvings are painted

Product making :
 The wood is cut as per the size of the from the block. The piece is cleaned and smoothened. The design of the toy to be made is traced on this piece. Extra wood is chipped off according to the design. Fine strokes with the hammer are made on the chisel. It is smoothened with a file and painted. Add clay and wheat with fevicol and make a paste .Then use it to create specific shape on top of the wooden blocks. Sometimes they also produced the hand of Gour-Netai,Radhakrishna with the help of this. The painting starts with coloring various body parts. Next the dresses with specific designs are marked out by fine strokes of the brush. The facial features are added in the end. These are

joined by bamboo killi (screw). The lacquering (coated with such a varnish), is done by pressing the lac stick against the revolving article. Oil is also applied at the same time for giving the better polish. The articles are either in single colour or in bands of different colours. The eyes and mouth are indicated by black line. In case of a Rani doll, the clothes & body are fully decorated.

Making the Doll

In an age of cyber technology and mass-produced molded products, it is rewarding to craft, with our own hands, a work of personal expression made from a natural material. The satisfaction derived from shaping wood with hand tools, making large chips fly with mallet and gouge, carefully rounding forms with a chisel, and applying a hand rubbed finish, is unique. Woodcarving can be enjoyed at any level, from whittling a found stick or pine board with a pocket knife to carving a sculpture in a fully equipped shop with many chisels and power tools. There are lots of wood carving techniques takes places which can create different styles to a woods and also make the product more attractive.
Similarly in Natungarm the aretisans are practising a unique style of wood carving so. They always use 3d shaped woods to create owls and similar types of dolls and also they have used flat woods and other shaped woods. The making follows the five steps to prepare the doll to go to the market and to be sold.

The making process involves following steps:
1. Seasoning
2. Cutting
3. Marking
4. Carving
5. Finishing

Seasoning: Wood after obtaining from the market is kept in a well-ventilated place for drying purpose. Seasoned wood is the best for carving as it prevents cracks.

Cutting: Big logs of wood are cut into desired size with the help of cutting machine. It is further planned to start the carving.

Marking: Artisans make motifs or motifs of god and goddess on paper. These designs are then used to trace on the wood with the help of carbon paper and pencil. These are rough sketch which is refined gradually while carving.

Carving: Once the design is traced, artisans with the help of chisel and hammer start removing the extra wood. After a certain stage again the marking is
done andthe detailing is added. Face is the last to be carved. It involves a lot of precision and details.

Finishing: The carved piece of wood is rubbed with the sand paper to smoothen the surface. There after it is either colored using chemical paints or polished with wax to give it a shine. Hooks are attached if it is a hanging if required.

Origin of the Wooden Dolls

The craftsmanship is always excellent. Their honesty and the labour distinguish this art from the others. Wooden dolls to stools, each and every product  can be distinguishable by their different colours and the placement of colours. Colour can change the character of a same looking product. The owl is the brand product of this village. On the white background of the owl is painted a distinctive design of red, green, yellow, black lines. Besides owl Radha-krishna, and King and Queen Dolls are traditionally made. The dolls are carved from one piece of wood. A big chunk of cylindrical wood is cut off according to the size of the item and chiselled out. Somewhere it can be seen as a 3d shape with adjacent three surface or round headed. Dolls are mainly made out of gamar wood, mango wood, shimul wood, ata wood, chatim wood. Men are cutting and carving the wood as per the requirement and women are painted the products with various colour. The sizes of each product differ from each other and the cost can be decided according to the size and the intricacy of carving. . The traditional designs are based on culture and mythology, the richness of ideas, the brilliant combination of pure simplicity and glamour combined with the master craftsmanship of the craft persons, result in an amazing work of art.It can be said that every child born in that village,can make an owl out of the wooden cut piece. It is in their blood.

Till now they earned their money by making these typical types of wooden dolls and live their livelihood. Owl sculpture from Natungram shares the iconic status in representing Bengal’s handicraft. In 1935 Abanindranath Tagore wrote a story about the source of wooden dolls in Visva Bharati quarterly patrika. In this newspaper the mention of ‘Bou putul’ and ‘Bor putul’(bridegroom) was there. Besides replications of owls, Krishna and Radha, king and Queen (Raja- Rani), Gour- Netai, lord Ganesha, Shiv -durga are traditionally made. The small village is full of its pastoral beauty, rural charm and great artistry. Primarily the dolls wear called ‘Mummy putul’ by the British Raj because they wear looking like the mummy of Mishor and these type of dolls wear made for the children. But today 90% of the people of Natungram sell these products and it is becoming their occupation.

As well as it is to mention that some of the new generation is also losing faith in wooden doll making because there is no permanent market .The govt has taken several initiatives but in this era of apps and tabs, the exposure and the expenditure for such arts is gradually fading. Although the artisans are involved in creating their own art inspite of the ups and downs in the market.

Origin of the Wooden Dolls

The quality and prices of the old traditional items have also improved.The owls are also very popular item of Natungram.

Owl is considered the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity. The (‘Ulooka’) owl is a bird that sleeps during the day and prowls through the
night. This is because it can only see in the dark, and goes blind in the day. This partial blindness in the creature is actually indicative of a sadhaka's (seeker) tendency of going toward the pursuit of secular instead of spiritual wealth. Goddess Lakshmi is also said to be the mistress of spiritual wisdom. By keeping the owl as her vehicle, she teaches us to open our eyes to the light of the wisdom residing within us. This Karunamayi (compassionate One) Mother, hence, symbolically keeps ignorance under her control. The talented villagers carve owls from blocks of locally
available wood and paint them using bright colours. The owl is associated with the Goddess of Wealth – Laxmi and having one around the house is a harbinger of material comfort. Traditionally found in village homes, they have now found their way into plush drawing rooms of city homes. The boldly painted owl seen is sold in about a half a dozen sizes from 5 to 30 cm. Large owls are sold unpainted or painted in sophisticated urban markets. The most important thing is the colour scheme. Everybody who is associated with the craft knows the specification of each product, colour wise.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Origin of the Wooden Dolls

Natungram is situated in Bardhaman District,4 K.M from Argadwip station. It is a simple rural area with soleful talented artisans.They are just not a simple artists but they are internationally recognized for their art and craft. It is about 1.5 hours drive from Bardhaman or Shantiniketan and it takes 4 hours from kolkata which is not too far from our daily hectic life. We can easily manage some sort of time for visiting this beautiful place for a lifetime experience of knowing artisans and to observe their art. 

Wood carving was started in Natungram near about200 years ago by a group of talented artists of ‘sutradhar’ (wood carver) community. The traditional wood craft of west Bengal have,  for centuries, been the preserve of the ‘Sutradhars’, one of the higher artisan castes of India. The ‘sutradhors’ also traditionally architects. Even today some well-known ‘Sutradhar’ families have handwritten treatises, drawing and diagrams setting out old constructional conventions, proportions and traditional plans, etc, for temples, dwelling, rath, chariots and boats.

The word ‘Sutradhar’ means carpenter and in West Bengal, mainly an area of alluvial plains, the basin of Ganga and its tributaries – these talented craftsmen had few opportunities of working with woods. Though they mostly worked with wood and executed magnificent carving in this medium, serving evidence of their artistry in wood is also scanty.

After Independence, the Government of India organised the All India Handicrafts Board to look after the craftspeople of India. The Late Shambhu Bhaskar ,a folk master –wood-carver of Natungram was encouraged by the Handicraft Board to evolve new items within his folk traditions. A whole group of outstanding items based on Hindu mythology and epics that he created is being reproduced now by the other craftsmen of this village. The Ravana and Durga being produced today sells for more than five hundred rupees.

Where to stay in Natungram :  People can easily stay in artisans home in Natungram (500Rs/- per day ) with 2 times meal of delicious Bengali foods. Another way is to stay in hotels or lodge in Katwa which is also not very costly. ]


Saturday, 3 October 2015

Some Words to Say

The crafts of India are diverse and rich in history. Each state in India has their own folk culture. Throughout the centuries crafts have been embedded as a culture and tradition within rural communities. They are a constant source of inspiration for contemporary designers and the subject for global exhibitions representing India. These crafts are traditionally made by rural artisans and express a charm of their own that has been long admired in the world for exquisite craftsmanship .West Bengal is a reknown place for handicrafts as there are many crafts are being made everyday.Various crafts like Terracotta , Dhokra , Rag dolls , Sholapith , Textiles , Masks and there are many more, Wooden crafts are one of them .

The Wooden Dolls of Natungram of Burdwan district is famous for its simplicity and traditional local flavour. The owl of Natungram has become a popular craft of attraction in the 80's. For centuries, wooden toys found their market essentially in rural fairs. A group of such toy makers had settled down in Natungram about a century and a half ago. Mainly the community of 'Sutradhars' have maintained and kept alive this folk art form in a very polishing manner. The dolls are made from various woods and both men and women take part during production . The branches are cut down and shaped in various size according their need and after completing few steps and painting the dolls are prepared to be sold . Specially wooden 'Owl' and 'Raja-Rani' are famous items here,but in this time of change they have adopted skills in making various wooden products like wooden stools, tables, table lamps, flower vases, birds and gods and goddess etc.  

This can be said, today it is one of a surviving art of Bengal that has some relation to folk art and earned a priceless artistic value . Basically effects of Globalization , technological revolution and changing taste of people have left this art form to survive alone . The artists live a life of hurdles here and just because of this, the new generations are losing faith for keeping this art form alive . The economy have slowly stopped supporting this art form .

In this journy we will try to explore and discuss about their art and life in brief .This blog is dedicated to raise some publicity of this dying folk art. Thank you .


Special Thanks to Aaheli Naha 
 for providing all the photographs.