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KASHMIR PAPIER MACHE

Application of Naqashi

The object when it reaches the naqash is firstly covered with thin paper strips of butter paper pasted on the object by means glue. This thin layer of paper acts as barrier between the plaster covering the object and the paintwork, ensuring that the painted surface does not crack. Earlier muslin was also used along with kashur kakaz (local hand made paper).

The surface so formed is then covered with a base coat of paint. Formerly crushed, pounded white stone was made into a paste and the same applied to obtain white color. Burnt and pounded cow-dung was used for obtaining black color. After the base color is applied the required design is usually out lined on the surface by means of pencil. This is known as khat travun. Traditionally master craftsmen would draw out the khat without the help of any stencil or khakha. Thus there used to be an individualistic touch to the rendering of a motif. But these days many younger artisans prefer to make use of khakas, which are essentially perforated paper stencils. Rubbing the khaka with chalk leaves a faint mark on the surface that has to be painted. These faint lines are generally outlined with zarda or the yellow colour. Thereafter the required colors are filled in. The process of filling the colour within the motif is known as aastar. In case some portions of the work are to be raised (or embossed) a process known as vathlavun, then gacch is applied in the required places. After the object has been painted over it is covered with two coats of varnish to give the required glossy finish.

Formerly, resins obtained from the tree known locally as sundaris(copal)were used in this process. In case the painted surface is supposed to be highlighted with gold; then the same is applied after the first coat of varnish and is then covered with another coat of varnish. The gold work is rubbed with the pen whose tip is made of sang-i-yashm. The gold to be used in papier mache is obtained in the form of gold leafs obtained from mohalla Gojwara. One of the leading papier mache artist of the mid 19th Century was Syed Turab Shah. There are around 100 or more designs in papier mache.
The average earning of a naqash can vary from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 10,000 depending on the level of craftsmanship and the number of hours spent per day.

In the contemporary Craft market of Kashmir, papier mache still retains its foothold. But over a period of time the craft has entered a stage of “mass production” which has invariably affected the quality of the art work. Many of the older papier mache artisan and Kharkhanawalas (middle men) see this as the end of an art that they and their forefathers had cherished. Yet not much is lost…the craft still retains a select though small clientele who are still on the lookout for that sweeping stroke of the brush that is the essence of this craft nay Art.

 

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