The manufacture of papier mache in the Kashmir valley has traditionally been controlled by Shia Muslims. This exquisite craft is also thriving to some extent in some parts of South India as in Madras region, but it is the Kashmir creations that are more famous.
Indian papier mache, the paper is not usually pulped, merely soaked, then
pasted, layer on layer, over a mould. When the object is completed, a thin
layer of chalk mixed with glue is traditionally applied to the surface,
and burnished with a piece of agate, although nowadays this is often substituted
by a commercial emulsion. The ground is painted with a mixture of pulverized
tinfoil and glue, or even gold for the very best items, but for the highly
commercial batch production, which has been the norm since at least the
early 1970s, a background colour is painted on, which is usually black.
The final painting uses fine squiggly lines to fill in the blank spaces
– sometimes a single animal hair is used as a brush. Last of all, the surface
is varnished with two good coats of commercial lacquer.
Trinket boxes, bowls, lamps and candle stands, trays and cases for pens. The real attraction of Kashmiri work it its fine painted decoration – an intricate zamin (ground) of little flowers set in vegetation against which are painted birds, mammals and huntsmen
© Arts Indian Atelier 1999-2000