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Artisan Stories: Papier-Mâché Artists, Kashmir

Papier-Mâché Artists, Kashmir


Our hand-painted baubles are made by a co-operative of papier-mâché artists in Kashmir. The decorations are moulded from paper pulp and adorned with intricate patterns. Many designs depict local plants and flowers that have ancient symbolic meanings.

Kashmir is the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent, originally centred around the Kashmir valley between the Himalayas and Pir Panjal mountain range. The area has a turbulent political history and is currently split into three territories administered by India, China and Pakistan, who remain in dispute with one another.

Papier-mâché


In French, 'papier-mâché' means 'chewed paper'. In Kashmir, the art of papier-mâché was introduced by Muslims from Persia in the 15th-century. It is considered of such cultural importance that papier-mâché is part of the Kashmiri school curriculum.

How is it made?


These baubles begin life as waste newspaper pulp. The pulp is pressed into moulds and left to dry for three days. The two halves are glued together and covered in tissue paper to create a perfectly smooth finish. A base colour is applied first before the design is painted freehand using tiny brushes. Finally, the bauble is lacquered to bring out the colours.

How your purchase improves lives


Kashmir economically disadvantaged due ongoing political conflict and is still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2005. Employment opportunities for people living in remote villages are scarce and selling papier-mâché enables them to continue their traditional way of life. Working as a co-operative empowers the artists, helps their businesses grow and ensures the future of their craft.

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Image credits: Bertram Ng, Unveil Kashmir