Working with simple hand tools, the bellmakers of the Kachchh Desert make a range of traditional metal bells. Each type of herd animal — goats, sheep cattle and camels — has its own size of bell. The artisans also make special bells for use in temples and very tiny bells that are used as ornaments.
Craftsmen use a stake anvil buried in the sand. With hammers and snips they fashion sheet metal into the desired form. Once the bell is shaped it is dipped into a mixture of flux, brass and copper filings. The entire bell is then covered with a clay coating to keep the finish in place while being fired.
Once removed from the kiln and cooled the bell is tuned by the master bellmaker. This is a musical process where the ringing of the hammer and the ringing of the bell alternate in rapid succession until the tone of the bell satisfies the bell maker.
In 2012, the Maiwa Foundation worked in collaboration with students from the University of British Columbia to improve kiln design for the bellmakers. Proposed designs were then reviewed by a team of professional engineers who volunteered their time. In India the Maiwa Foundation hired a local engineer to work with the bellmakers to construct the new kiln based on the plans.
As the kiln was built each stage of construction also received suggestions from the bellmakers. The finished kiln uses less charcoal, vents outside of the house, and can fire an entire batch of bells at once.
Maiwa has worked with this community of bell makers for over twenty years. The reconstructed kiln is just one example of the work done by the Maiwa Foundation to support artisans and craftspeople.