Shri Raju (41 years) is an agricultural graduate and belongs to a landlord family in Etikoppaka. Etikoppaka is a large village having a population of around 12,000. Village economy is mostly farming based. It is situated adjacent to a stream and blessed with good rains and fertile lands. More than 200 artisan families live in this village. According to Raju and some elderly artisans, before 1910, the dyes were made from a tree called `divi-divi’ (Caesalpinia coriaria). From this tree, the artisans could get only red colour in different shades. This tree has become locally extinct now. After 1910, synthetic dyes were introduced in the market replacing the traditional practice of using tree-based dyes. These were available in wide ranging colours. However, when they were used, it was necessary to add another chemical, Titanium dioxide while mixing with lacquer.
Shri Raju attended some workshops and training courses organised by Crafts Council of India and Dastakar group on making natural dyes for textiles. In one of the workshops, Shri Raju met Shri K V Chandramouli, an expert in dye-making. Shri Chandramouli encouraged and helped Mr Raju to work on natural dyes that can be mixed with lacquer. Mr Raju began to experiment on tree and plant based dyes. His experiments resulted in natural dye concentrates over wide ranging colours. These concentrates do not require any binding material such as Titanium dioxide. Crafts Council of India helped Shri Raju to get these dyes tested for their toxicity. Most of these dyes proved to be lead-free. Those which showed signs of toxicity also developed micro-toxins only if they were preserved in the form of slurry or liquid form over long durations. Mr Raju developed an innovative technique to preserve them in the form of cakes, thus avoiding development of micro-toxins.