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Playing with lights

Bangalore-based brand Varnam finds inspiration in South Indian toys and handicrafts to make contemporary home decor objects, particularly lamps. Check out their products online

You've certainly seen the lacquer-work toys and dolls from Karnataka's Channapatna village in handicraft stores and exhibitions. Varnam, a design brand by Karthik V, is using the lacquer-work technique to create more than just toys and dolls and give the traditional technique a new lease of life. Varnam creates utility ware with a contemporary touch and some serious design intervention.


Kutthuvilakku in lacquer-work

Craft reinterpreted
Varnam, Sanskrit for colours, is an appropriate name for the brand as one of the first things you will notice about its products is the use of bright colours. Karthik started Varnam as a small venture, a mere hobby, five months ago. "I used to travel to villages around Karnataka and work with artisans.

I have always been sensitive towards the artisans' community. Varnam was purely a passion and felt like a great way to give back to the community. I was inspired by this book called Handmade In India and wanted to revisit traditional crafts in the state. I would meet with artisans and provide basic design intervention," he adds.

Light up your home
Varnam uses lacquer-work to produce tea light holders, lamps and the quintessential South Indian lamp Kutthuvilakku (traditional brass lamp). "My inspiration always comes from nostalgia. So, anything South Indian counts as inspiration," says Karthik. Thus the traditional barni (jar) is reinterpreted in its miniature form as a tea light holder and the kuthuvilakku, signifying prosperity, is turned into a lamp base with a leaf brocade shade. Varnam also, creates embroidered cushion covers.

Colour me bright
All the products are in bright colours like chrome yellow, red, green and orange and promise to brighten up your house. "Anything that has a basic circular form can be worked on with lacquer. There are limitations, but the vilakku (lamp) lent itself beautifully to the art form," says Karthik.

Dealing solely with Channapatna lacquer work currently, 38-year-old Karthik, who comes from an engineering background, plans to explore other forms of art in future. "I hope to work with more artisans from the state in the future. I plan to explore Kasuti, embroidery typical of Karnataka and stone work," he says. "It usually takes a few months and quite a few weekend trips to set things up," he adds. 
 
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Price range Rs 500 onwards

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