The Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom was founded in 1957 by Sikkim government in an effort to preserve and promote traditional arts and crafts. With time it evolved as a centre for sustainable development of the region focusing on utilizing the traditional knowledge and human resources. In modern perspective the centre serves as a important tool for providing employment and self-reliance across the strata of society covering diverse region, income rang and education. The centre has now expanded to 32 training centers with 650 trainees and 13 production units. The head office is located in Gangtok, the capital city of Sikkim. It provides training in carpet weaving, handloom, thanka painting, handmade paper, wood-carving, cane & bamboo craft, soft toys and multi-crafts. Training period ranges from 2-4 years depending on the craft. After that the artisans can either work in the centre’s production units or work outside on their own. In order to promote the initiative the government also gives stipend to the students.
Wood carving is an ancient art form of Sikkim. It was initially patronized by Buddhist monasteries where you can still see the ornate wood-work. Wood carving is done on Choktsis (carved table), Bakchok (square table), wooden masks, decorative screens, lucky signs, altars, lamp stands and other decorative items. Three types of wood are used for wood carvings - tooni (toona celiata), rani chaap (macalia exelsa) and okner (walnut). The designs usually have figures of dragons, birds and phoenix.
The training for wood-carving is of two years. First year, you learn about the design and process, in second year you learn carving and cutting.