The beautiful one of a kind handpainted jewelry boxes on my website and in my store are all from Kashmir, India. The boxes have a rich culture and incredible history. Each box is made of paper mache and has been hand painted by local artisans in Kashmir.
Paper mache or ‘Papier Mache’ is a French word meaning ‘Mashed paper’. It is a very delicate decorative art which shows the artistic zeal of craftsmen in Kashmir. It was born in Persia, a land known for bringing rich culture and heritage to the world. Intermingling this foreign art and talent and blending it with the creative and exotic styles of Indian art, a new form of art was born—The Indian art of Paper mache.
The mogul emperors traveled to Kashmir, a serene, beautiful valley with lakes, meadows and pastures surrounded by these majestic snow clad mountain range—the Himalayas. Driven to this natural beauty, Kashmir seemed the ideal place to cultivate this new art – the surroundings harnessed the creativity and romance for this art and finally Paper mache took its roots in the simple homes of these gentle people and thus— paper mache became the folk art of Kashmir.
The important elements in paper mache designs are objects of nature – such as birds singing or flowers bursting forth in full bloom, historical figures, animals, hunting and battle scenes, court scenes influenced by miniature paintings. The process for making paper mache is relatively simple but takes quite a bit of time and labor. There are two main steps in the process of creating paper mache items. The first is the sakhtsazi, or the actual production of the item, the second is the naqashi, when the item is painted with any number of motifs. The design is painted on free hand and often the painting is done in relief, with certain pieces of the design subtly raised. This gives a quality of dimensionality to design which adds to the beauty of the final product. Paint used may have a metallic quality which adds to the illuminated feel. After the design is complete the final step is adding a layer or more of varnish to give the item its characteristic shine.
The ingenious Paper Mache skills are passed down from generation to generation, son taking the place of his father and father taking place of his father this art has been handed down from family to family. Kashmir raftsmen have tried to maintain the culture of Paper Mache and to this day it is still being made by hand in these small home shops where families gather together and work on it and bring these beautiful creations to the world. But with the age of technology and fast paced economies, the art of Paper mache has shown signs of decline. The new generation of Kashmir are as worldly and knowledgeable as the rest of their peers and have not shown the inclination to preserve this art. However, as with anything else there is new awareness among the Kashmir that its art needs to be preserved and brought out to the world to see and admire.
Introducing and offering this rare artisan jewelry boxes to my clientele is an honor and I look forward to each collection!
Enjoy and be well!