Etikoppaka is a small village on the banks of Varaha River in the Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, India. In 2017, these traditional Etikoppaka toys acquired official recognition of their heritage in the form of a GI tag.
Artist Srisailapu is a native to Etikoppaka who learnt the wooden toy craft from his father. Characterized by a splendid and bright glossy sheen, these products are exported as well. The dolls and toys are made of soft wood using a spinning lathe machine. They are then painted upon with lacquer colours that are usually extracted from vegetable dyes. A translucent resin from the secretion of insects is used in the final coat.
Each piece is made with love and care – right from the bold lines drawn across the characters’ faces to the immaculate painting in even strokes that create dense hues. These quirky and ornamental products serve as popular souvenirs.
Srisailapu works an average of seven hours a day and makes anywhere between 200 to 400 rupees a day. He talks about how important it is to keep innovating and designing new designs and colour schemes. For special orders, he will even create customized pieces.
Summers are particularly tough as their raw material lakka melts in the heat. Also, they do not get too many orders. His children help when they’re free but are not keen on following in their father’s footsteps.
The lockdown period has affected business and they do not have any orders. Srisailapu worries about his family and how they will sustain the upcoming months, or even year. Ï studied only till 9th standard and I don’t know how to do anything else. Who will give me a job?”, he asks.