Origin: The word Papier Mache is derived from a French word meaning chewed paper or mashed paper. Dating back to 105 AD, Papier Mache was invented in China. The Kashmiri Papier Mache started in 15th century under the rule of King Zain-ul-Abidin. Roots of this art are buried with muslims of Persia. Craftsmen were invited from central Asia to spread footprints of Papier Mache to India. Magnificence of Papier Mache has been a significant element of Mughal era and was favoured by all Mughal Rulers.
Earlier in the history, this art was also known as Kar-i-qulamdan. The reason being, it was used to make household items such as pen-holders and trinkets. This art is also known by other names like Kar-i-munaqqash because it was made on smooth surfaces.
One of the most significant examples of this stunning form is Madin Sahib Mosque built during Mughal Era wherein Papier Mache was done on wood work. Ceilings of Shah Hamdan Mosque, Shalimar Garden of the Mughal Gardens in Srinagar speak of Papier Macha. Before this Papier Mache technique came to light, artist practiced this art by drawing vibrant paintings on household furniture like doors, windows, bed etc.
Present Day: Originally Papier Mache employed gold painted items which were expensive. therefore the replicas where made and this artform was explored widely.It is basically creating objects with paper pulp or the layers of paper and ornamenting them in colours.
Papier Mache products include decorative items such as flower vases, ring boxes, bowls, pill boxes, trays, boxes in varied shapes and sizes, wall plaques, ashtrays, lamp vases, candle stands, frames, bangles, mirrors, steel trays, glasses etc.
Nowadays, Papier Mache is also done on metals like brass and copper. In Jammu and Kashmir, this art form is handed down from generation to another. You can dip your hands in making of Papier Mache products in artisan’s houses. To keep the art form in-tact and culture alive Papier Mache has been made a part of school curriculum by the government of J&K.
Procedure: The process of fashioning Papier Mache objects has two distinctive categories known as Sakhtsazi and Naqashi. Sakhtsazi (making of the product) is basically collecting the raw materials such as water, waste paper, cloth, rice straw and copper sulphate. These raw materials are then crushed into pulp. Pulp is then put into different moulds to achieve the desired shapes.
Similarly, pulp layers are added to achieve the desired thickness. Then the product is let to dry and layers of adhesive are applied. Following this, it is smoothened with the help of a stone.
Naqashi (painting of the object) is primarily beautifying the product. It includes designing, drawing, brushing, painting, adding intricacy and motifs. Drawings are created using zarda (yellow colour) also known as demarcation of the object. Then it’s brushed with brushes made of real goat hair, cat hair and donkey hair. The colours (organic or vegetable source) used for painting are derived from diluting pigment in water with some glue to fix it on to the object. Motifs include flowers, birds like Kingfisher and bulbul, historical facts and figures, animals, war battles, court room drama etc. The influence behind these designs are miniature paintings.
The most popular patterns or motifs are Hazara (thousand flowers), Gulgandergul (Flower within a flower), Gul Vilayat (dear flower), Chinar Leaf, the Iris flower, Roses, Cherry Blossom flower, Tulips, lilies and different varieties of flowers. The final objects of papier mache are varnished to give them shine and it also act as a protective layer.
Papier Mache is highly requested and acclaimed all across the world. Papier Mache products have a great demand in the International Market and contribute significantly in the growth of economy and foreign exchange earnings for the country.
Bring Home Papier Mache: You buy these paper craft items from Lal Chowk, Badshah Chowk of Srinagar, Raghunath Bazaar and Hari Market in Jammu and J&K Arts Emporium and other local markets.