A Paper Mache Art Primer
Did you know?
- You can also spell Paper mache as papier-mâché and both versions are correct?
- A papier-mâché church erected in Norway survived 37 years before finally being demolished.
- In 1800 an Irish man called Issac Weld from County Cork made a boat from papier-mâché. In it he sailed on the Lakes of Killarney.
Well who says paper mache art is a kid’s thing? And who says papier-mâché products are not durable and water proof??
Honestly, at least I used to say that till 5-6 years back!!
Travelling Back in Time to My Paper Mache Workshop
And my eye-opener was the papier-mâché workshop I attended back in 2010. At that point I had no clue that in 2015 I will be writing a blog on papier-mâché otherwise I would have surely saved those pictures somewhere. Well, something is better than nothing, as we say, here are 2 pictures that we clicked during the carnival that was followed by the workshop for showcasing our creatives (luckily I had these in my Facebook account).
But that one ‘hands-on’ experience was enough for me to understand what it all takes to create even a very small papier-mâché artefact. That little pumpkin we created with hands took our 3 complete days and still we were kind of left with some bits and parts that we covered with paint in the last moment just before the carnival 😉
The Paper Mache Artisans
Fortunately, today my association with SouvNear has brought me back to the same creative world where people living in the rural areas of India are trying to revive that traditional and colorful art. Unlike me, they completely cherish what they do as this skill has come to them in their heritage. And they are always excited to share their experiences and the processes they follow to create these amazing crafts.
And my blog here is just an attempt to share the skill and art of these artisans with the world as they might be the experts at what they do but what they really lack is the right platform to showcase their art and artefacts.
The unique papier-mâché collection on SouvNear
Papier-mâché, although introduced in Persia, got highly popular in Kashmir during the 15th century and since then this place has been brightening the main events & festivals of almost every country of the world through its creativity.
How is Paper Mache Made?
Here’s the traditional Kashmiri method of making papier-mâché crafts that I understood from the art-keepers of Kashmir:
Typically the process is divided into 2 parts: sakhtsazi (that means creating the object) and naqashi (painting the object).
SAKHTSAZI- Creating the dreams
Making the paper mache pulp
Firstly, waste paper is soaked in water for several days until it disintegrates. The excess water is drained off and the soaked paper is mixed with soaked rice, cloth and copper sulfate to form a pulp.
Molding into shape
The mixture is then put into the mould and is left to dry for 2-3 days. On drying the pulp, the shape is cut away from the mould into 2 halves and is again glued together.
Coating the moulded paper mache crafts
The surface is coated with a layer of glue and gypsum (that typically acts as a fertilizer and this mixture helps in plastering the molded piece) and left to dry again for few hours. The coated piece is rubbed at multiple levels with tissue paper or some baked piece of clay to bring out smooth and shiny texture.
NAQASHI- Painting the dreams
Decorating the paper mache pieces
A base color is painted on the smoothened piece and a design is added free hand using multiple colors. These colors are obtained by grinding and soaking various vegetable and mineral dyes in pigment or stone form.
Kashmiri artisans adding colors to their papier-mâché creations
The painted designs done on the papier-mâché products are usually in the form of flowers and birds that are highly inspired from the Persian art. There are some other popular styles like Arabesque that is done in gold against red or brown color and Yarkand, a spiral design with gold rosettes.
The final touch
A coating of lacquer is done on the final piece to make it water-proof, intact and durable.
The complete time frame for creating anything like these small paper mache jewelry boxes, or trinket boxes is close to 5-6 days and it goes through multiple creative hands before it becomes the grace of some home or event.
Examples of Finished Paper Mache Craft Items
My journey with SouvNear so far has brought me great experiences, a complete new creative world and amazing people. I really wish that I continue trying my best to present the work of such great artisans of India to the world.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂