The Craft and Community:
Lac has been used in Indian craft for centuries. Coloured lacquer is applied to wood in layers and chiselled to create designs and effects. A handful of families from Kachchh’s semi-nomadic Vadha community settled in villages like Nirona and Jura where they use the technical and artistic skills of their forefathers to sustain the lac turned wood craft tradition. The Vadhas traditionally moved and worked, where needed, throughout villages bordering Kachchh’s Great Rann. They carved and coloured wooden furniture and household accessories for many local communities. The descendants of these artisans now work in the villages where they have settled. Few traditional lacquer artisan families continue the craft in Kachchh.
Lac turned wood is practiced using simple tools, a self-made lathe, a string attached to a bow, and sticks of coloured lac. Each lathe is demarcated by two sharpened iron rods which are bent toward each other at ninety degree angles and fixed in the ground. The distance between them is dependant upon the length of wood the artisan is turning because the wood must be held firmly between the rods’ pointed ends. The artisan begins by carving the wood. One the wood is carved into product, artisan apply lac on the wood to create colour patterns on it. Traditionally, the lacquer was colored with vegetable dyes though, more recently, artisans use brightly coloured chemical dyes. The first colour is a base upon which the artisan adds layers of colours.
The craft products:
The most commonly crafted products are kitchen utensils including chakia-velan (chapatti roller and board), chamcha (spoons), thaveta (spatulas), khandani (mortar and pestals). Artisans also produce decorative household items such as charpoy (bedsteads), bajot (stools) and gotani (furniture legs) etc.