Toy story.

Other day I was having a conversation on recent ban on China toys, suddenly someone questioned, who is a toy designer? I recalled my post graduation days, when I was doing specialization in Toy design. Everyone thought it would be like making soft toys. It took long for me to explain that a toy designer does not make only soft toys or toys for babies. There is much more to explore, when we use the word TOY.

Apart from sewing soft toys, a toy designer works with many materials – wood, plastic, metal, rubber, bamboo, steel, paper and natural materials (like weeds, leaves, flowers) etc. If the material possibilities are not limited, then how the possibilities of areas could be?
It could be designing toys for sports, fun and education, special children, for teenagers, for adults (Sex toys!), toys for corporate (team building etc), stress busters, meditation and exercises, and even toys for old age people.

It could be anything from a social initiative to a fun filled activity to source of money.
And mind it designing a good toy is far more difficult than designing consumer goods. Money once spent on a gadget will not make you throw it even without using it. But if a toy is not attractive and not able to capture the attention of child; s/he might not play with at all.

Why there is URGENT need.
In early 2009, a lawsuit was filed by Consumer welfare of India on the basis of finding lead (and occurrence of Lead Poisoning*) in Chinese toys. India has banned the Chinese toy imports for six months. And as China was one of the major importers of toys this is going to provide Indian toy maker ample opportunities to take Indian toy industry at a different level. The global turnover of toy market was above $110 billion in year 2007 where China has 35,000 crore global market share where as India stands nowhere with 700 crore.
BUT China has grabbed 60 per cent of the domestic toy market. So are we ready? Can we grab this opportunity and show the world, our talent and skills to make these toys? It’s a difficult one. We have a Toy city in Greater Noida, we have many localized toy makers (Wooden toys from Uttarpradesh, Karnakta) but we need more conscious toys makers. Who takes this challenge and make toy more child’s friendly.

Let’s make a Toy Plan!
Being a country with a lot of diversities, we have a lot to offer when it comes to designing. One should just target one area from making toys for edutainment to fun to ecological and the possible ideas will come out by own.

Use of recyclable material, natural colors and more eco-conscious will not make a toy buyer happy but also keep a child healthier and happier.
There is one such cool example of greener toy- Fastronauts – Powered by Play

After all, what fun is a toy if you can’t play with it?

Wear it naturally

Crafty Story -II (A series on Indian Crafts)

Have you ever noticed what are the colors used for your favorite blue shirt? Are they natural or synthetic and artifically made? How much are they harmful to the enviroment or our body? Yes, I am talking about the colors and its impact on health and environment.
Dry colors, vegetable colors or natural dye colors are more skin friendly, and good. Its more like a family, region based business for making colors and implementing the same on products like-carpet, toys and printing etc.
The color that you are wearing, using will not only have colors to soothe your eyes but fragnance of the ingredients will also smells nicely. Colors derived from nature have some depth which chemical dyes lack.

China, Rome, Brazil, East Indies, France and many more countries are coloring the world in natural way. In history, India is painting naturally approximately since 327BC and has been a metaphor of excellance.

Natural colored dyed and handspun Carpet.
Natural colored dyed and handspun Carpet from nomadrugs.com

These natural, hand made, eco-friendly dyes are biodegradable and non-carcinogenic. They are obtained from dried flowers, leaves, seeds & barks and from stones at times from insects also! These are soft and low toxic colors generally non-allergic.
And use for dyeing of Textile like fibre, wool, yarns or garments etc. Paper coloring, on Toys and other Wooden products, making handmade Soaps, Candles; possible areas are unlimited.
From Indigo dye used in ‘Ikat’ (textile from Orissa, India) and food colors added in the form of Indian spices like Turmeric.
Nature colors.
Natural colors and dyes are extracted by the process of fermentation, boiling, and treatment with chemicals. Colors can be obtained from a single dye by the use of different mordents with which the fabrics to be dyed are treated.

 Indigo Dye and wool dyed
Indigo Dye and wool dyed in same. Pictures taken from http://www.aurorasilk.com/

Naturally Printed.
Fiber has cellulose and it will easily absorb natural dyes. Indian textiles are famous for naturally dyed cotton cloths. Gujarat, one of the major center for dyed and block printed textile. Rajasthan tie & dye (Bandhini) is worldwide famous so are Kasmir carpets that have interesting patterns by using vegetable dyes colors and Bihar Madhubani paintings painted delicately in natural colors.
Both western & eastern coast of India have beautifully printed cotton but technique is bit different. If south indian artists uses brush to paint then Gujarat uses wooden blocks for printing nice patterns.

Techniques
Printing blocks are made of teak wood, on one side design is etched. Other side has a wooden handle for holding and drilled cylindrical holes to pass the air and allowing the release of excess colors. New blocks are soaked in oil for 2 weeks or so to soften the wood grains.
In south a bamboo pen is used. That’s how Kalamkari- kalam (pen) and kari (means Work) method of painting on cotton or silk happen. Andhra Pradesh in India is famous for Kalamkari work.
Natural Dyes are supposed to use but gradually artificial and chemical colors are replacing the Indigo blue and Turmeric yellows.

Fabrics
Images courtesy- http://www.fabindia.com/craftsProfile.asp

Dyes making
Most of natural dyes are produced in situ means the coloring substance is extracted form the raw material and used. Which has disadvantage of non-reproduction, mass production, storing is also limited and it’s not standardized.
If techniques are used to produce in powder form than these drawbacks can be remove. Power would be available for long period of time, easy to carry & use and can be standardized by following the guidelines. Color variations in different lot can be also minimized.

Chemical Connection.
One side Natural dyes are organic, eco friendly, bio degradable and much more alive other side synthetics or chemically composed colors are inorganic, flat, and dead. A quick difference can be seen by checking the tonality, depth of naturally dye fabric to flat and unchanged artificial colors used textile.

But natural colors are now fading towards artificially made commercialized colors as it’s easy to get, ready to use. It is impractical to restore all our age-old practices with the versatility of man-made products still it s more about making a right choice and going nature way. To create a good and healthy and more alive work, natural dyes made work is better any day. It is not about saving time and producing quantity its more about retaining the craftsmen identities and making a greener and eco friendly choice.

Tags: Natural dyes, Vegetable colors, Indigo, Indian natural dyes, eco-friendly colors, handicraft, craft, Textile

Need an earthy treatment!

Our earth, our home has a day – 22nd april to celebrate and think and do some good actions. It was started by US Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970.

Someone is asking for help badly. Yes, our dear earth is in pain and need help from her 6.5 billion children. But are we listening, and / or doing something?

earth day- designed by Paavani

Not many of us have really thought of what we can do other than having long discussion or talking about ‘green design’ or sustainability to global warming etc.
Well, you can do some really basic things: 7 days and 7 tips !

1. Think about plants & trees as your lungs, whenever you smoke!2. Use your brain when trashing garbage or even a coke can.
3. Carry your bag when going to buy grocery.
4. Use technology but don’t let technology consume you!
5. Show your creative side, reuse the products.
6. Have/use water as it the most expensive liquid.
7. and last Being gadget freak is geek, going green is coolest!

After all, our earth is not well and we all are doctors and it’s high time that we show dedication for this single yet precious patient!

Vroom in Green!

Now a days I spend lots of time in traveling. And I think at times how much conscious are we towards our environment.

Driving clean means going green or improving the environment quality. As CNG started getting grown as a major fuel source more and more car making companies giving option for CNG model. Compressed Natural Gas or CNG is a substitute for gasoline/petrol or diesel. It is an environmentally “clean” alternative to fuels. It contains methane (CH4) extracted from natural gas and stored and distributed in hard containers (cylinders). CNG cylinders can be made of steel, aluminium or lightweight composite (fibre-wrapped plastic).

cng-Vijay Abdul Kalam- duplicate of India President

In India few cities have only CNG based public transportation system. Like in capital (New Delhi) it was implemented by Supreme Court in 1998 that all auto rickshaws & Buses in and around city would be CNG or LNG fuel based. According to a study issued by the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, by 2002 all diesel city buses, 3 wheeler auto rickshaws and taxis in New Delhi have been converted to CNG and air pollution levels are noticeably down.
With the opening of more and more CNG stations and easy way to go CNG, private vehicles are also changing to CNG. The Delhi Transport Corporation now boasts it has largest fleet of buses in the world that use a clean fuel like CNG.
Natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, and produces less greenhouse gas per unit energy released. For an equivalent amount of heat, burning natural gas produces about 30% less carbon dioxide than burning petroleum and about 45% less than burning coal.
CNG-propelled autorickshaws are green and yellow in colour and buses have green & yellow colors stripes. By following cleaner and greener impact of CNG public transport other countries are also going CNG, like, Pakistan (Punjab) and England, Bangladesh etc.

So are you ready to pick a green fuel vehicle ) BTW Delhi has DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) buses- which’s the world largest pollution free chain.
Read about CNG and CNG kit here.Â
Ps: The picture used here is of a CNGÂ Auto rickshaw driver, who is Duplicate of A.P.Kalam. Image is (C) 2007, Paavani.