| Uniqueness of Kashmiri Papier Mache
The unique aspect of Kashmiri Papier mache is the combination of the process that leads to surface preparation and the resulting surface decoration (naqashi), lending itself to an art form, which is unmistakably Kashmiri.
The process lends itself to representation of the Kashmir’s natural and cultural landscape in a stylized manner that is unique to the regions artisans. Thus the overall appearance of the papier mache is marked by very intricate freehand drawn motifs and patterns rendered in a very subtle colour which display the range of the regions flora and fauna.
The process represents the evolution of various techniques and materials for the production of objects, which mark the skill and fine craftsmanship of the artisan.
Papier mache is a miniaturized art form involving minute detailing and rendering and a variation of different colours and shades. Thus the craft involves mastering of the skillful handling of the brush. It involves dedication, patience and also an inbuilt artistic flair. It is also time consuming. All these factors add up to the market value of a papier mache object. Vivid 19th Century European observers of Kashmir like William Moorcroft and Sir Walter Lawrence have also remarked upon the skill and expertise involved in this work.
Today there are different standards followed and practiced by the artisans. Same design and patterns can be rendered in different ways depending on the price that the client is willing to pay. In the market today paper mache objects are sold as No: 1 or No: 2 based on the quality of workmanship and also the product.
No: 1 or Good papier mache work:
Good papier mache work represents a more intricate and detailed brush work, wherein the number of motifs per a given surface area is more. Within any particular motif there is a subtle colour variation in terms of shade, hence the motif is delineated by this shade variation. The variation is obtained by minute and very fine curvilinear brushwork almost representing in appearance minute line work. Thus a flower petal would be lighter near the centre and darker along the edges. The outer edges of the petal are finely rendered using a large number of fine brush strokes. Empty space in the background is rendered with small semi curvilinear lines, hardly visible from a distance. The free hand drawn lines around the border are of uniform thickness without any break or smudges.
Very fine papier mache has borders comprising a particular design or motif rather than a plain rendering of diagonal lines. The surface is uniform with no discernable gap at edges in case of objects like boxes, which consists of two parts. The gold or silver work done on these objects comprises pure gold or silver leafs and is sold in the market as high value products. In most of the cases the design is first stenciled out on the surface by means of pencil (khat travun).
No: 2 or Inferior quality papier mache work:
In this type of papier mache the motif comprises a single colour with no shade variation. The line work delineating the motif is not of uniform thickness and is usually done with a broader brush stroke. The size of the motif also increases, thus the number of a particular motif per a given area also reduces.
In certain cases the brushwork is of such an inferior quality that makes the recognition of the motif difficult. The pencil work for the motif is also usually avoided. The line work along the border is also not of uniformity, thus irregularity of line work and paint smudges are some of the obvious disabilities in this kind of work. Pure gold is never employed in this work. These products usually sell for half the price a similar No: 1 object using similar design would fetch in the market.