Meeting the Lanka Kade Artisans

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country and the people and communities are extemely friendly. I (@katherine_Babiur) was lucky enough to visit this amazing country and stopped by the Lanka Kade workshops to take a tour!

Here’s some of the team at one of the workshops near Colombo. That’s Upul, who started Lanka Kade, in the blue at the back!

Lanka Kade work with a specially hand-picked group of highly skilled artisans. As a business they recognise the skills of Sri Lanka’s local woodworkers and establish long-term partnerships to make their colourful Fair Trade toys. At the core of what they do is help artisans grow independent, sustainable businesses in toy making. It provides hundreds of jobs for the local community, giving them training and skills and allows them to provide for themselves and their families. That’s why we love Lanka Kade!

As you can imagine, the workshops are pretty colourful!

Set up by Upul and Diane, they noticed the skills of local woodworkers across Sri Lanka, from a small family run workshop to an independent cabinet maker. They provided these artisans with interest-free loans to build workshops, buy equipment and train extra staff (which are often paid off in 1-2 years). They work with them closely to create Lanka Kade’s own toy designs and give them regular orders to create toys for Lanka Kade’s customers across the world. As Lanka Kade has grown so have the capacity of these workshops, creating more and more jobs for local people.

Lanka Kade currently work with eight separate producer groups. I was lucky enough to visit four of the workshops and see exactly what goes into making Lanka Kade wooden toys!

Dogs drying ready for their wheels!


A few of the workshops I visited were making the Lanka Kade’s easily recognisable animal figures. Here’s how they are made from tree to final product…


The wood is harvested from rubberwood plantations across Sri Lanka. These are trees that have come to the end of their life producing latex. Lanka Kade source their wood responsibly and work to replant in the rubberwood fields with other plants.


The trees are then processed which means they are cut into planks, stacked and dried in huge kilns.


On each plank of wood stencils are drawn by hand, ready to be cut.

This lady has worked all over the world so was one of the few I could chat to in English. She as working away on these dinosaur stencils.


Each piece is cut by hand using a jigsaw machine. Imagine this on the jigsaw animal puzzles… Because they are cut by hand each connecting piece is unique. It means they need serious organisational skills to make sure each jigsaw is put back together with the right pieces!

One person can cut up to 300 pieces a day!


After a quick run on a machine sander each piece is sanded by hand making sure they’re smooth to the touch and ready to take the colourful paint.

This workshop had just had a power cut so the ladies doing the hand sanding were the only people still around!


Each piece is set up with a number of screens to transfer paint to the wood blocks, giving them their character and making them the Lanka Kade figures we love!


Each and every Lanka Kade toys is checked for quality and touched up by hand if required. Then the labels get stuck on and they’re boxed ready for shipping.

A massive thanks to Upul for showing me around the artisan workshops! It was a really fascinating day learning about the skills involved to make Lanka Kade toys and meeting all the friendly, smily people who are the hands behind each and every toy.

You can shop the wonderful world of Lanka Kade toys HERE

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