Up till late 19th Century the traditional colours employed in the rendering were crimson, green and blue though black was also sometimes used. Within an object the colour scheme was limited to four or five basic colours, which were employed in variety of shade gradients, adding to what from a far seems to be an abundance of different colours. Writing about the effect of Kashmiri papier mache objects, Moorcraft praises them for the variety and elegance of the patterns; the brilliancy of the colours and the beauty of the varnish. The varnish (rogan) adds luster to the paintwork, which otherwise tends to be dull and also makes the colour look brighter.
Traditionally, white colour was obtained from a local stone called shali kani, yellow (zard) from Gul-i-Ksu (flower) and weflangil (wild plant). Black from burnt and pounded cow dung or by burning pomegranate peels, red from cochineal, lin (forest wood) and saffron, ultramarine from yarkand, white lead from Russia. These days mostly poster colours, which come in shade of 12, are used.
The overall effect of a papier mache object tends towards the blue, green or gold; an effect which is achieved by a beautiful balance of the various colours and shades used.
The contemporary artisans retain the traditional scheme of colour balancing though certain innovations based on the demands of the market have been attempted.
The Production Process of Papier Mache
The basic material from which papier machie objects were traditionally made comprised paper and cotton rags, which used to be mashed into pulp. But over the years wood in the form of kavir (pine) and budloo (fir) steadily replaced paper pulp as the medium for making papier mache articles. The main advantage of wood was the ability to manufacture articles with clean, clear and straight edges an option that was not available in paper pulp. In the course of the 20th Century cardboard (ghata) was introduced in the market for making of various articles and has since commanded a large section of the market, especially catering to the lower price segments. There have been some innovations in the traditional paper pulp making process also, like the application of mashed paper over brass vases.
The making of papier mache object follows three stages namely
1. Making of sakhta
2. Smoothening of sakhta
3. Applying naqashi work or as it is commonly referred to as papier mache.
Making of Sakhta
The maker of the object over which naqashi is to be applied is known as Sakht Saz or Chhet woul or Kalib. Formerly the object used to be made from paper pulp hence the name papier mache or (mashed paper). But in the latter half of 19th Century objects were also being made from wood (budloo). The basic reason for replacement of paper pulp with wood being;
• Lesser cost involved
• Better finish of the product (namely smoother, crisper lines and uniform edges).
• Ability to create objects in different shapes.
Later on the costlier budloo wood was replaced by kavur. These days’ objects are also made from ghata (paper board). The process for making the items traditionally from paper pulp is as following :