(Last Updated on : 25/11/2008)
Papier Mache is one of the unique craft that developed during the Mughal era and is still being practiced by a lot of craftsmen all over India. The articles made out with papier-mache are used as a house-hold activities and decorative items. Successful experiments have been made with replicas of famous temples, forts and gates in papier mache. Important centres for this craft are Gwalior, Ujjain, Indore and Harda.
The Shantiniketan school of artists did some pioneering work in introducing this craft in West Bengal. Today quite a number of craftsmen in and around Calcutta have taken up the craft and their products have found a market for their beauty in designs and excellence in craftsmanship.
The products include animals and birds particularly cocks, parrots and pigeons papier - mache folk products especially bowls are pleasing. Gold and silver leaves are also used on larger articles, figures and objects like the houseboat are depicted. Landscaping is also done on wall plaques, trays, large bowls, screens, writing sets, etc.The craftsmen of Purulia make a variety of masks, mythological in character, that are used during folk festivals by the chau dancers of Orissa.
Procedure of making Papier Mache
Papier-mache articles are made of waste paper applied in layers and pressed together on wooden modules. Waste paper is soaked in water for about 10-15 days, and beaten up with a hammer. Gum is mixed thoroughly to this pulp. Multani mitti is added and kneaded to get a pulp paste. This pulp is beaten so that a roller can roll it. These sheets are pressed on to the required mould many times by a invert of a broken pitcher and dried for some time. The mould is separated after drying and the object is taken out. This object is in a raw form and is finished, polished and coloured. File is used to smoothen it. Also a thin mixture of white clay is applied for further softening. Imagination runs wild as craftsmen breath life into this mould, bringing out a variety of expressions on masks.
Papier-mache in Kashmir is never fully pulped. It is softened by water and the desired thickness obtained by pasting on the mould layer over layer. The object under preparation is kept covered in a wet cotton cloth and while in a moist state covered with a thin layer of plaster of paris mixed with glue, then smoothened and burnished to a fine finish with a wet stone, after which the ground colour, zamin as it is called is applied. The ground may be in colour or gold or tin foil, it is burnished with a piece of agate after drying then fine verdigris powder is applied to lend a subtle greenish tint to the metallic background, or with a lac preparation where a red tint is needed. On coloured grounds, black, blue, rose, green, violet, brown, almond and dark olive are generally used.