Paper Mache

This Kashmiri craft recycles waste paper into beautiful artifacts painted by expert craftsmen. The wonderfully vibrant hand painted motifs on the different types [EasyGallery key=’2′]of items look illuminated as a result of the shiny varnish finish. Paper Mache (also spelled Papier Mache, Papier Machie) has a long and rich tradition in Kashmir, it is a delicate decorative art which shows the artistic zeal of a craftsman.

Motifs are most commonly nature oriented such as birds singing or flowers bursting forth in full bloom. Paper Mache products include home decor (such as letter holders, coaster sets, napkin rings etc.) decorative items (including picture frames, candy bowls, tree ornaments etc.) and apparel (bangles).

History
This art was introduced in Kashmir in the 15th Century by a Kashmiri Prince who was imprisoned in Samarkand (Central Asia), where the art form captured his interest. Upon returning to Kashmir, he brought many experts from Central Asia to establish this art form in the Valley. The art born in the land of Persia was raised in Kashmir to new heights, especially during the Mughal rule during the 15th and 16th centuries. They highly favored Paper Mache, prior to this time paper mache was mainly used for making pen boxes but during Mughal rule it was expanded for use in numerous other items.

Process
The process for making paper mache is relatively simple but takes quite a bit of time and labor. There are two main steps in the process of creating paper mache items. The first is the sakhtsazi, or the actual production of the item. The second is the naqashi, when the item is painted with any number of motifs.

The traditional Kashmiri method of making Paper 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 bonding agents are mixed to form a pulp. This mixture is placed in a mould and left to dry for two to three 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 now the item is ready for the artist to grace it with his design.

The design is painted on free hand. Often the painting is done in relief, with certain pieces of the design subtly raised. This gives a quality of dimensionality to design which adds to the beauty of the final product. Paint used may have a metallic quality which adds to the illuminated feel. After the design is complete the final step is adding a layer or more of varnish to give the item its characteristic shine.

Presently the term Paper Mache refers to items that are made entirely from paper pulp and also those items that are wood based with a layer of paper pulp on top of them. Paisley Valley is working with producer groups to attempt to make the wood based products entirely paper pulp based.

The ingenious paper mache artisans of Kashmir transform a variety of utility articles into beautiful works of art.

Some examples of paper mache items can be seen below. Click on any item to enlarge. Paisley Valley can custom design the form, design or colors for any item. Presently some of the items have wood elements, we are working to create moulds to convert the to pure paper mache.

 

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