Papier-mâché or as all in India know it to be , “Paper Mache” is true to its meaning simply that..”Paper Mashed”! Allow me to recount my own training in this extremely tedious and skillful Indian Craft of French Colonial ancestry.
We take paper, newspaper or preferably paper with no news-print on it. We soak it over-night in hot water or boil it before soaking it to allow for the paper pulp to soften and become malleable and such that can be worked with, like putty, to make shapes and forms, layer by layer while adding, by brushing-on, an adhesive after each layer. We Kashmiris used home-made adhesives but its open to personal or commercial choice.
These objects are then painted in solid colors all over. On top of these solid colors, Kashmiris, paint using detailed, fine, dexterous paintbrush strokes, elaborate designs of paisleys (yes, we love our paisleys!), the Chinaar ( Maple Leaf ) in all its Autumnal splendor, Floral Wines or Gul Dustas, Floral Bouquets in Spring and Summer colors. The highlights are the fine outlines in Gold-colored paint, the bright colors and the finesse.
Most common are Trays, Objects of Art, Mirrors, boxes for Knick-knacks, Stationary holders, Letter-openers, Lipstick Stands, Bangles Holders and figurines. All very useful and also extremely marvelous and fabulous.
Visitors and tourists almost never leave India without a few Papier-mâché products as these are light in weight, breathtakingly beautiful and make great keepsakes or gifts. Its a craft that won’t likely be around for ever.
Who wants to soak paper, mash it up and then spend hours hand-painting for a few bucks in the hand?? However, if its appreciated, valued and sincerely supported, it could grace Living Rooms, Offices and all venues globally.
Its eco-friendly, made from recycled materials and entirely an effort of the human mind, hand, skill and soul.