Craft is such subject that how much you explore will make you more inquisitive. It opens the vision to look beyond the current lifestyles and takes you to the tradition where it evolved to how it reaches to other cultured areas. India is full of crafts. Just like there are endless traditions to follow, there are lots of crafts to do. That gives customer a wide variety to choose from. And if taking about Indian craft the best place to buy at one place; none other than India’s very own Dilli Haat.
There is a fair ongoing – Savan saras, 2006 with crafts from all states of India. There were awesome toys collection made of wood, paper, coconut & jute etc. But today I am just fascinated with paper.
Paper is such a versatile material that how much you appreciate it is less. The history of paper is very old; originated from papyrus and in between somewhere comes the papier-mâché. It’s a french word means chewed paper. Through at times textiles, wood grains or all-purpose floor etc can be use too. This art originated in China, no exact years are defined but patented by Henry Clay of Birmingham, U.K. It was one of the common techniques to make puppets, dolls in 19th century. And till date it is an appealing craft to entertain children.
After all paper is one of first composite material that’s used to make strong structure. I was surprised to know there were paper boats that really floated in river. (Not our childhood days paper boats)Yes, Paper canoe that was hit in 1800 in America. Paper strips are added by using glue or other way is making a papier-mâché paste by using one part water in one part flour. Or at times by adding diluted glue and using different moulds to get a shape. Paint, decorations or varnishing happens when it get dried.
This way the creation of a papier-mâché object can be divided into two distinct categories 1.Sakhtsazi (making the object) and 2. Naqashi (painting the surface).
So how did this amazing craft reach to India, that too paradise of earth (Kashmir). Sultan Zain-ul-Adidin was the person behind bringing it to the valley in 15th century. Kashmir is famous for papier-mâché intricate painted tiny boxes and huge vases.
The colors used for it are obtained by grinding and soaking various vegetable mineral dyes in pigment or stone form. Evergreen patterns in papier-mâché are sparkling running streams, lotuses blooming in Dal Lake, green fields contrasting with white snow capped mountains, tiny songbirds perch & nest and other colorful floral designs. Gold, silver are also used to make big articles.
This craft is also practice in other part of India, like in Kerala for making huge Kathkali masks, in Odisha to depict the deities so in Gwalior (Mandhya Pradesh) for largely making the toys. A differentiating difference can be seen in products made in tribal parts and the people who use wooden mould to do papier-mâché. It gives fine finishing as compare to products made by giving shape through hands.
And what papier-mâché do offer, a range of souvenir to gift on Christmas, and on other occasion from light weight toys to bright and appealing boxes & vases. And painting style on each object will tell the story from where it is coming. There is so much to cherish with this brilliant craft which has no definitive way to do still anyone can make awesome articles with little bit understanding and unlimited imagination.
* This is series of post on Indian crafts & toys made by using paper, wood, cloths etc.
** All Photos taken by me are from Dili haat’s different stalls.