Art and Joy of Wood

Confirmed speakers

Field trip

On the Saturday after the conference (22 October) there will be a field trip to a number of attractions that demonstrate the art and joy of wood in the local region. The field trip will last all day and will include visits to a Sandal Soap Factory, Mysore Palace and Channapatna. A morning snack and packed lunch will be provided. Participation in the field trip is an optional extra to the programme and is not included in the registration fee.

Sandal Soap Factory

Mysore Sandal Soap Factory
[Photo credit: Arun Patre]

Sandal soap has been manufactured in Karnataka since 1916 when Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore, set up the Government Soap Factory in Bangalore. A factory to distill sandalwood oil from the wood was set up at Mysore in the same year and a third factory was established at Shimoga in 1944. In 1980, the Government decided to merge these factories and incorporate them under a company named Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL). KSDL owns a proprietary Geographical Indication (GI) tag on Mysore Sandal Soap, giving it intellectual property rights to use the brand name, to ensure quality and to prevent piracy and unauthorised use by other manufacturers.

Mysore Sandal Soap is the only soap in the World that is made from 100 percent pure sandalwood oil. However, KSDL now only uses 25 percent of its manufacturing capacity because of the current shortage of sandalwood in Karnataka due to the depletion of the sandalwood resource. More information about Mysore Sandal Soap can be found here.

Mysore Palace

Front View of Mysore Palace
[Photo credit: Ananth BS]

Located in the heart of the city, Mysore Palace is the former residence of the Wodeyar Maharaja and is also known as Amba Vilas. The original palace was made of wood, but this burned down in 1897 and the current palace was rebuilt in 1912. The palace is a treasure house of artworks and exquisite carvings, including a wooden elephant howdah (for carrying people on an elephant), finely carved doors and wooden gables and roof structures.

Mysore is also noted for its fine rosewood inlay work. Historically, thousands of workers in Mysore were involved in inlaying etched ivory motifs into rosewood to create intricate wood work. Even now an estimated 4,000 people in Mysore are involved in rosewood inlay work, although other materials such as plastic have replaced ivory.

This intricate work involves many stages, including the design and outlining of patterns on the rosewood, cutting the inlay patterns to shape and carving recesses for them in the wood, fixing the inlays in the wood, then sanding and polishing to give a bright finish.


Traditional Wooden Toys from Channapatna
[Photo credit: Pratheep PS]

Channapatna is famous for the production of a particular form of laquered wooden toys and dolls. As a result of the popularity of these toys, Channapatna is known as Gombegala Ooru (toy-town) of Karnataka. The origin of these toys can be traced to the reign of Tipu Sultan who invited artisans from Persia to train the local artisans in the making of wooden toys. This traditional craft is also protected as a Geographical Indication (GI), administered by the Government of Karnataka.

For nearly two centuries, wood of the Wrightia tinctoria tree (colloquially called Aale mara  or ivory-wood) was the main wood used to make these toys, although rosewood and sandalwood were also occasionally used. Nowadays, other woods - including rubberwood, sycamore, cedar, pine and teak - are used as well.

It has been estimated that more than 6,000 people in Channapatna are employed in manufacturing these toys, in about 250 home workshops and 50 small factories. The Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation provides assistance with marketing and is training the artisans so that they can keep up with changing trends in the toy industry.