The Art of Papier-mâché
The traditional method of papier-mâché follows a series of carefully implemented steps. It starts with recycled wastepaper soaked in water for several weeks until it disintegrates. Excess water is drained, and the soaked coarse wastepaper is mixed with recycled cloth, rice straw and copper sulphate to form a smooth pulp. The mixture is then applied to the desired molds, usually made of wood, and left to dry for several more days. Once completely dried, the surfaces are coated with a layer of glue and gypsum, rubbed smooth with a stone or a baked piece of clay and then pasted with layers of tissue paper to form a smooth and even surface layer. A lead-free base colour is painted on, and then a final design is meticulously hand painted using brushes and quills made from natural fibres. Depending on the number or colours and complexity of the design, the process of hand painting each piece can take several days if not weeks. The item is then sandpapered or burnished and is finally finished with several coats of clear lacquer before left to dry. Each item then goes through a quality checking process to ensure any major imperfections are corrected or discarded.
Papier-mâché is a delicate decorative art. This art of papier-mâché was born in the ancient and classical region of Persia, a land known for bringing rich culture and heritage to the world for centuries. This art was brought to Kashmir, India during the 15th century.
The creative and highly skilled papier-mâché artisans from Kashmir, India, transform a variety of utility articles into rare art pieces. The creation of a papier-mâché objects can be divided into two distinct categories, the Sakhtsazi (object making) and the Naqashi (surface painting). Each item travels through several talented artisans before reaching its completed state, with every craftsperson having their own unique skillset ensuring the final product is a beautiful, richly designed piece of art.
Through knowledge and unique artisanship passed down from generation to generation, Kashmiri craftsmen and women have tried to maintain and preserve the culture of papier-mâché and to this day it is still being made by hand in small batches, where master artisans, skilled people at the top of their craft & cottage industry champions gather to bring alive these beautiful creations.