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Paper Mache Craft from Kashmir

History of Papier-mâché…..

Papier-mâché is a delicate decorative art. This art of Papier-mâché was born in Persia, a land known for bringing such rich culture and heritage to the world. The influence of this Persian art was favored greatly by mogul emperors that came from Samarkand, Uzbekistan in Central Asia in the 15th and 16th century and ruled India for nearly 200-300 years

Though a lot can be written about the mogul period in India, but one of their greatest contributions to India art and history was to introduce this delicate art of Papier-mâché to Indian craftsmen. India backed with 1000 years of its own rich art and culture was just the oozing ground of talent and natural born artisans that these mogul emperors could ever find. Intermingling this foreign art and talent and blending it with the creative and exotic styles of Indian art, a new form of art was born—The Indian art of Papier-mâché. The mogul emperors traveled to Kashmir, a serene, beautiful valley with lakes, meadows and pastures surrounded by these majestic snow clad mountain range—the Himalayas. Driven to this natural beauty, Kashmir seemed the ideal place to cultivate this new art of papier-mâché. The surroundings harnessed the creativity and romance for this art and finally Papier-mâché took its roots in the simple homes of these gentle people and thus— a new art form was born. Papier-mâché became the folk art of Kashmir.

Passed down from generation to generation, son taking the place of his father and father taking place of his father this art has been handed down from family to family. Kashmiri craftsman have tried to maintain the culture of Papier-mâché and to this day it is still being made by hand in these small home shops where families gather together and work on it and bring these beautiful creations to the world. But with the age of technology and fast paced economies, the art of Papier-mâché has shown signs of decline. The new generation of Kashmiri’s are as worldly and knowledable as the rest of their peers and have not shown the inclination to preserve this art. However, as with anything else there is new awareness among the Kashmiri’s that his art needs to be preserved and brought out to the world to see and admire.

The making of Papier-mâché…..

Kashmir is endowed with natural beauty. With its majestic mountains, gushing streams, meadows laced with wild flowers, shimmering lakes—it is truly what the mogul emperors described it as—“a paradise on earth”. Taking inspiration from their surrounding this unique craft involves the use of paper pulp for creating beautiful artifacts painted by expert craftsmen in lifelike images of kingfishers, maple leaves and other motifs.

The traditional Kashmiri method of making Papier mache starts with waste paper which is soaked in water for several days until it disintegrates. The excess water is drained and the soaked waste paper, cloth, rice straw and copper soleplate are mixed to form a pulp. This mixture is placed in a mould and left to dry for two to three more days. On the drying of pulp, the shape is cut away from the mould in two halves and then glued again. The surface is coated with the layer of glue and gypsum, rubbed smooth with a stone or baked piece of clay and pasted with layers of tissue paper. A base color is painted on, and a design is added free hand .The object is then sandpapered or burnished and is finally painted with several coats of lacquer.

The ingenious Papier-mâché artisans of Kashmir transform a variety of utility articles into rare art pieces. The creation of a papier-mâché object can be divided into two distinct categories, the sakhtsazi (making the object) and the naqashi (painting the surface). The colors for painting designs on the surface are obtained by grinding and soaking various vegetable mineral dyes in pigment or stone form. The final product is a beautiful art work that cannot be called a creation of one artist. It travels many pairs of talented hands before reaching a table or a mantel. Above all other talents, the aesthetic sensibility and hereditary skills are most essential in these craftsmen.

Papier-Mache, today, has become highly stylized, modern and appealing by using real gold and silver paint and by adding intricate decorations. The designs and decorations of the Kashmiri Papier Mache, usually in the form of flowers and birds, have a strong Persian flavor. Among other rich designs are 'Arabesque', done in gold against a brown or red ground to show sprays of rose blossoms in fine lines and 'Yarkand', an elaborate design built up in spirals with gold rosettes radiating from various centers and white flowers laid over gold scroll work. Some items like bowls and vases are lined with brass, while on special orders boxes and other items are ornamented with gold and silver leaves and depict beautiful landscapes and objects like a house boat that form an inseparable part of Kashmiri lifestyle
.”—quote from KashmirNet.com

The Papier-mâché objects produced in Kashmir today varies from Christmas ornaments to coasters and includes boxes of every imaginable size and shape. These objects are not only beautifully decorated, but are surprisingly light and strong. Their coating of lacquer protects them from water and gives them extra durability.

 

 

 

 
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