CHAPTER I . HARD MATERIALS
The kitchen's kaleidoscopic lac colours and patterns from Kutch...
THE VADHAS OF KUTCH
The Vadhas are a semi-nomadic community that moved throughout Kutch (Gujarat, India). They collected natural stones and colors from forests and created lacquer goods.
According to a Vadha artisan from Nirona, in Kutch (popular for the lac work), the name of his village came from "Niro-Vadha": Niro means "place" and Vadha means "the one who cuts wood".
These artisans are believed to be practicing Lacquer Work for seven generations now and the whole family is involved in this craft. Men do the heavy work of cutting and shaping the wood and women apply the finishing touches to them.
The descendants of Vadhas are now permanently settled in Kutch, being only a few traditional lacquer artisan families who continue the craft in the region.
As a lot of the Kutchi ethnic artisans, the Vadhas face a lot of socio-economical challenges!
WORKING WITH LAQUERED TURNED WOOD
Lac is taken from insect resin and has been used in Indian craft for centuries.
In this craft the Lac is coloured (traditionally with vegetable dyes) and then applied to the wood, by turning a lathe manually and generating heat. The wood used for the handicrafts is the local Kutchi Babool wood.
The artisan begins by carving it into the shape of his product, then applies the Lac kaleidoscopic colours and patterns - this interesting effect, unique to Kutch, is achieved by first transferring stripes of colour from an unpolished Lacquered stick and then pushing the colours into each other on a lathe. Finally, the piece is given a glossy polish with oil.
The tools used in this process are quite simple: a portable self-made lathe, a string attached to a bow, and sticks of coloured lac. The whole process is manual and without any use of electricity.
While working under a tree and chatting with family members the Vadhas create wonderful objects, covered with psychedelic patterns and merging zig-zags of contrasting colours, with so much simplicity: spoons, chakla-belan (board and rolling pin), toys, stools, dandiya sticks (for the traditional Gujarati folk dance), etc.