Etikoppaka Christmas Nativity Set

In 2021, we brought out our most stunning product – a nativity set. But not just any set. This particular set was made using a 400 year old toy making craft called Etikoppaka.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | Christmas Etikoppaka Nativity set that carried a flavor of India, for Christmas 2022
https://www.instagram.com/p/CWcWo_Qo2tz/

In August 2021, I had nearly given up on my dream to bring out a Christmas Nativity set that carried a flavor of India, for Christmas 2022. But that very month, I got acquainted with Tvami, and their connection with Etikoppaka artisans.

And there was no looking back! We co-created this gorgeous Etikoppaka Nativity set. Let me tell you why it is unique, and what it portays to India’s Christian community.

How it all began

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The initial sketch of Etikoppaka Nativity figures

It all began with me sharing a couple of reference images with the Tvami team. They took over and sent me this initial sketch of the figures. I was clear that they would represent the Etikoppaka art form entirely. So the body shapes lay homage to the traditional Etikoppaka craft, and the colours had to be organic laquer colours.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | An old toy making tradition in a tiny village called Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh
Etikoppaka is a scenic village on the banks of the Varaha River.

If you are wondering how all of this fits in, Etikoppaka is a 400 year old toy making tradition in a tiny village called Etikoppaka in Andhra Pradesh, The GI-tagged craft form is noted for its lovely, colorful toys. The figures are turned on a lathe using locally available soft wood from Ankudu (Wrightia tinctoria) trees, the fast growing and hence sustainable species of trees native to the region. Craftsmen use a spinning lathe and small chisels, among other tools to carve the toys and souveniers that are then enriched with natural colour pigments derived from seeds, bark, roots and leaves. Lac, a colourless resinous secretion of insects, is mixed with the natural pigments applied on the toys to deliver their signature lacquered finish.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The complete initial sketch of Etikoppaka Nativity figures

We went though several iterations of designs, and this was one of them.

FINALIZING DESIGNS for the Etikoppaka Nativity set

It was time to bring the designs to life. We worked with artisan Subrahmanyam Yesudasu, an Etikoppaka artisan who has trained under the CV Raju, a veteran Etikoppa craftsman.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | Etikoppaka Joseph and Mary dolls made by soft wood from Ankudu (Wrightia tinctoria) trees

We had to finalize colours because there was a limited range of colors

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | Etikoppaka Angel dolls made by soft wood from Ankudu (Wrightia tinctoria) trees

The Process of Making the Etikoppaka Nativity set

The whole process starts with tiny blocks of wood from the ‘Ankudi Karra’ tree (Wrightia tinctoria). It is obtained from a sustainable (fast growing, and therefore able to replenish itself quickly) forest in Etikoppaka.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The tiny blocks of wood from the 'Ankudi Karra' tree for making the Etikoppaka Nativity set

The wood is turned on a lathe and ‘carved to perfection.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The baby Jesus basket made by soft wood from Ankudu (Wrightia tinctoria) trees

While still on the lathe, lacquer colours are applied. The lacquer is obtained from natural dyes derived from seeds, lacquer, roots and leaves. Because they are organic and natural, the range of colours is not as vast as say, the colours available in an acrylic paint palette. So we worked with that limitation. Yet, it all turned out beautiful. The image below depicts the way the toys look after the first step of lacquer colour application.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | Etikoppaka toy look after the first step of lacquer colour application

Accessories to the main figure such as head gear are also lacquered and kept ready.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | Accessories to the main figure such as head gear are also lacquered and kept ready

Once this is done, the artisan does the finishing (details like hair colour, embellishments on garments, eyes and features on the face, etc.). It is a painstaking process as each toy has to be painted to perfection.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The artisan paints on each Etikoppaka Nativity toy

The image below will give you a better idea. of the careful finishing details that the artist has added.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The complete toys of Joseph and Angel

We also made a little basket in natural wood (no lacquer) for Baby Jesus. This basket with baby Jesus is my favourite part of the whole set.

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | A little basket in natural wood with Baby Jesus

And finally, the whole set came together!

The final version of the Etikoppaka Nativity set

A unique Etikoppaka Nativity Set | The set consists of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus (laying in a manger), 3 kings and angel

I always believe that traditional crafts have to be encouraged, as there are only a few of the original artisanal families still practising the trade. Encouraging them and innovating new designs for their traditional craft is a great way to carry the craft forward, and expanding the reach of their products to a global audience.

You can buy this set online at our store throughout the year. If you are based outside India, Tvami offers international shipping. Check it out here.

About Tvami: Tvami’s mission is to help rural artisans flourish. Our curated collection of Indian handcrafted products is traditional and yet relevant to the modern world. We work with unreached and unrecognized artisans to bring you genuinely crafted, high quality products. Read more about them and check out their amazing range of artisan-made products on their website.

Head to our Pinterest board – where we have all these images already pinned!

More Christmas Posts

Have a look at how I decorated my home this Christmas. Click here

Ways to use our doughbowls in Christmas Decor

Styling our Minimal Wooden Angels

Tips on how to style our set of 2 wooden angels, to add quiet charm to your Christmas decor

One Comment

  1. Pingback: How to Style our Set of 2 Wooden Angels - The Keybunch Decor Blog

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

*