Vijay Kunchum’s desire to make furniture and handicrafts out of wood and bamboo was born out of an age-old association with the forests, writes Rashi Tiwary

Vijay Kunchum, owner of Crafts Forever, is more than just a businessman. He is passionate about wood and bamboo and is a self-taught craftsman cum designer.

“The desire to make furniture and handicrafts out of wood and bamboo was born out of an age-old association with the forests. As a child, I often visited the forests of Andhra and Maharashtra with my father as he was a contractor.

It is here, that I felt the raw, rustic intelligence of the forest-dwellers could be moulded into something much bigger,” he says.

After that, there was no looking back. Determined as he was, Mr. Kunchum did vast research before he opened Crafts Forever, which he says was initiated to “recreate contemporary products within the traditional framework”.

Since then, he has taken the initiative to train several tribal people in making products from locally supplied bamboo.

He makes it a point not to transport bamboo from the north-east, where it is available in huge quantities, because he does not want to increase carbon footprints, which the process of transportation would involve.

Involving tribal people

Moreover, it wasn’t easy getting the tribal people involved in new ventures and projects. Most of them would always be sceptical and it was only the actually physical demonstration of his skill that made them trust Mr. Kunchum.

Many argue that the use of wood goes against the idea of a green environment but Mr. Kunchum claims that wood can be re-grown and it also decomposes on its own.

Besides generating employment for tribal people, Mr. Kunchum also wants that the monotony and drudgery in the lives of craftsmen and other workers be done away with.

For this reason, he wants workers to use different tools; for instance, he claims that even a power saw used in place of a simple saw could make work easier and the product more chiselled.

In the workshops conducted by him, he also talks extensively about enhancing worker’s productivity through constant innovation and bettering their products keeping in mind the clientele. He occasionally also contributes articles to a magazine called ‘Woodnews’ on sundry issues like ‘the demise of the carpenter’, ‘toy-makers’ and bullock-cart wheels, just to reiterate their worth.

Most importantly, Mr. Kunchum is self-funded. Admittedly, the business of bamboo and wooden handicrafts is not very profitable but he is trying to garner more funds. In the past, the AP Forest Department has funded some training programmes conducted by him but other than that, there has been no monetary support from anywhere.

In the near future, he hopes to work with local tribal people, particularly the nomadic who make bats out of local wood, to help them refine their artistry and make it amenable to urban taste.

And of course, the quest for planting more trees and re-growing wood, is another of his long-term goals.