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Home » Preview to Crafts of India

Preview to Crafts of India

Art of Wood
Glitter of Metal Crafts
The Art of Metal
Papier Mache
Soap Stone

Art of Wood

Wood particularly costly wood like sandal, sheesham, rosewood and kadamb are used for production of beautiful handicraft items depicting various symbols of Indian rich cultural heritage. There are production centres in Karnataka, Rajasthan and other places. The carvings of elephant, ambawari, peacock and other cultural symbols are carved on these woods which make them unique pieces which are used for decoration of homes and presenting gifts to friends and relations.

The objects made of sandalwood are the most famous among the other wooden artifacts for its intricate carving and its sweet fragrance. Such things are considered to be the most expensive. Availability of sandalwood in abundance in the forests of Mysore and around has made this region the most flourishing for this trade. Besides Mysore; Tirupati, Madurai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu; Jaipur, Delhi and Varanasi are the other centre for this attractive workmanship.

Chandan is the term in Hindi used for sandalwood and it is best suited for ornamental treatment as well as it has the religious sensitivity in Indian ethos. Sandalwood objects are mainly engraved, inlaid and veneered and made into a variety of most beautiful articles.

The instruments employed by the sandalwood carvers are extremely simple, viz., a saw, plane, mallet hone or fine-grained hard stone, an assortment of various shapes and sizes of chisels and a few engraver�s tools some extremely minute and delicate. The operation is started by either drawing the pattern intended to be produced on the smooth and white washed sandal wood or on a piece of paper pasted over its surface. The is then engraved or outlined in every detail; the interspaces between the lines are next cut away, thus leaving the pattern in low relief; lastly the design itself is carved out in the minutest detail keeping the intricacies and subtle light and shade effects, every desired curve, expression and texture is fully portrayed.

The most popular articles are made in the sandal wood are figurences, elephants, square and rectangular boxes, photo frames, paper knives, key chains, bood marks, screens and chess sets etc.

Rose wood
Rose wood is available in abundance in the forests of Karnataka in South India. Mysore town has become center for rose wood carving from medieval period.

Since rose wood has a brilliant tan colour, often images of Hindu pantheon are carved in this wood. Large figures of Krishna, Ram, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha as per Hindu iconography / religious texts are made for prominent display in large residences / palaces / hotels and religious centers etc.

Animal figures such as elephants and wooden panels incorporating various shades of wood and Sofasets, Dining sets chest of drawers, screens are also made by skilled artisans of the region.

Kadamb Wood
Kadamb Wood is well known for its strength and long life therefore generally it is used for making the architectural things. There are various techniques used for decorating the objects made of Kadamb wood.

The most common is the carving in relief and the floral creeper and fauna decoration is often found in these wood carvings. Beautiful Ganesh, Budha, elephants in different shapes, chess sets and other decorative figurines are intricately carved in this wood.

Saharanpur in North India is the main centre for making the articles in Sheesham Wood, which is considered to be the strongest variety of wood. The vide range of articles are made in this centre from big size to small size like Dining Sets, Sofa Sets, Screens, Side Board, Corners, Chest, Almirah to small boxes, Tray, Pen Stand etc.

The Saharanpur is famous for exquisite traditional carved and engraved furniture and gift items. The various techniques used for detailing of the carved furniture is Jalli Work, Fine engraving and relief work.

The specialty of work is the surface of the furniture is covered with fine carving details with floral motifs and Brass / Copper inlaid.

Glitter of Metal Crafts

The glitter is always glitter whether it is of gold or silver or metal. The metal craft shines as good and stimulates the environment in homes, offices and other places. They are products of imagination of artisans. The important metal crafts centres are Moradabad, Jaipur, Delhi etc. These products are popular as part of culture. As they are inexpensive they become valuable possessions of art lovers. There are two important types of metal craft � White Metal and Metal Meenakari.

White Metal
White Metal is term used for electro plated nickled silver on brass object. To give new dimension to brass objects fine layer of silver metal is electro plated through electro-chemical process which gives brass a silvery look. This silvery look is achieved by passing an electrical current through a solution containing dissolved metal ions to the metal objects to be plated. The metal object serves as the cathode in an electro chemical cell, attracting metal ions from the solution. The process is regulated by controlling a variety of para meters including the voltage and amperage temperature and the purity of bath solutions. First the brass objects are created generally by sand casting method which is done by using moulds. Once the master mould is prepared the process of casting is done by pouring molten metal into the mould. Once the object is ready engraving is done on these items by hand using various tools. Another form of decoration is emboss work which is done on metal sheet items. Embossing leaves a raised design by including the back of a paper on metal surface with ball tipped styles. After the object is ready it is electroplated giving it a silver look. The quality of the plating depends on the number of microns of silver used on the item.

Some of the items which are not used for food are lacquered to provide a shield from tarnishing. The process of lacquering is carried out in a dust free pressurized chamber where air is injected through micro filters thereby avoiding any chances of dust depositing with surfaces of the items. The shield protects the item from tarnishing.

Gifts and utility products like wind goblets, bowl & bowl sets, wine coolers, photo frames, planters, vases and statues are most sought after pieces of art in this metal.

Metal Meenakari
Enamel / Meenakari is a crystal form of glass fused with metal oxides like silver, gold, copper and zinc. Real enamel when used on copper, silver or gold produces bright beautiful colors like jewel stones.

Copper enameling is a lengthy process which involves various steps:- This enamel / colours do not fade and can sustain the heat. Many utility and decorative items like bowls/candle stands, frames, spoons etc., are made in this craft. CCIC procures these items mainly from Maharashtra and Delhi.

The Art of Metal

The world of Brass is as glittering as gold.

Brass Ware
Rajasthan and Moradabad in UP are best known for art brass ware in the country. Brass objects are made either by sand casting, moulding or sheet metal forming process and various levels of production are handled by specialized craftsmen.

For ornamentation various techniques of engraving, embossing, jali cutting filling in coloured lac in engraved areas, etching, tinning, electroplating 24 carat gold plating are being used.

Kalamkari which is an urdu word for engraving is done with controlled strokes of thapi, mellet on find pointed chisels by skilled craftsmen.

They engraved the designs from memory shallow engraving is called naqkashi or sada kalam, while deep engraving is called khudAI or sia-kalam. In khudAI very intricate designs called marori work is done and chased depression are filled in with coloured lac. The lac sticks are heated and applied to the metal. The design gleam in golden tracery against the translucent coloured lac.

Traditional designs are mostly floral arabesques or birds animal, geometric designs. Some of the names for designs are blue chicken, chidia chiken, lily-chicken, irani chicken, Bidar design Angoori, guldasta, pachranga etc.

Now these days, the decorative and dowry items with engraved designs are finished with 24 carat gold plating which impart a rich royal look to them. They are finally lacquered which makes the gold plating lasting and easy to maintain.

Copper Ware
Copper called tamba in Sanskrit is regarded sacred and is known to have medicinal properties and keeps water pure. Every temple has objects made of copper and every house has a copper pot to store water. Copper smithery is a hereditary profession. Craftsman buy the sheet from contractors, earlier copper was extracted by the tamtas from local mines, a process which was a closely guarded secret. Bigger pots are formed in two halfs and joined with brass solders. The sheet is formed by drawing it over a swage stone. The rim or moth are finished by beading and handles are riveted on.

Sheet - Metal Work
Metal sheet most commonly brass are cut and beaten to create the form of the desired object. The base and body of the item are made separately and soldered together. The soldered joints are beaten with a hammer and the surface is scraped. The object is frequently heated in the furnace to keep the metal soft. It is also repeatedly beaten with a mogri (wooden-hammer) in order to remove all the dents on the surface.

Sometimes these items are decorated with embossing or repousse work. A recipe of lac buroza (gummade from rice), powdered brick and mustard oil is made and heated until viscous solution is obtained. This thick paste is poured into the metal object and allowed to solidified. The lac ensures that the object does not get punctured when it receive multiple blows from the chisel and hammer employed to create pattern on the objects surface. On the completion on design the object is heated so that lac may be poured out and the engraved utensil is then beaten from wishing to remove all dents finally the utensil is burnished with a buffing machine. Planters, pots, wall plates and paan-dan, boxes etc., are some of the popular items which are made by using the technique.

Kansa or Bell Metal
Kansa an alloy with high proportion of tin to copper was another material used for making utensils for ritual and household use. Kansa did not tarnish easily and suitable for serving dishes. Traditionally the plates tumblers or bowls were forged out of lump of kansa on anvils and steel shapers by a team, heating and beating the metal simultaneously. Bigger pots are shaped and forged in parts and joined or brazed with soldering paste finished and polished. Due to high labour cost involved in the traditional methods these utensils are now made by casting process and finished on the Lathe.

Papier Mache

The art of Papier Mache is appreciated the world over for its painstaking craftsmanship and unique sense of beauty. It�s re-pulped paper mixed with glue, moulded and then dried into strong, hard material, which is meticulously decorated with colour and lacquer. The minutely detailed Mughal miniatures are a great source of inspiration to the modern papier mache artists. This is basically an Eastern art, before it reached Europe in the seventeenth century. Initially this art was used for making qalamdani or kalamdani (pen cases or pencil boxes) in Iran and Kashmir. Apart from Kashmir, Papier Mache art became very popular around eighteenth-nineteenth century in Rajasthan, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and other centers of the South India.

Today Papier Mache objects are more fashionable and variety of objects are made in different centers. It ranges from utility items to decorative objects. The most common Papier Mache items are boxes in different shapes and sizes, Christmas decorations in bell shape and ball shape, masks and animal figures. The beautiful decoration is often found on the utility items like attractive hangings, photo frames, letter racks, coaster sets, trays, bowls and vases in various shapes and sizes. Now a days some furniture items like stool, small table or corner tables screen is in great demand. The use of bright colour background is the main attraction of this craft upon which flora fauna is beautifully painted in light colours. The lightweight and attractive colours made these paper mache items very admired by the people.

Soap Stone

Shiny and lustrous soapstone is famous for its attractive and intricate carving done by the stone carver of north and south India. Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are the popular centres of soapstone carving in North. Mysore in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are the famous centers in southern India.

Softness of the soapstone inspired the carvers to make the religious idols of Hindu God-Goddess, model of famous monuments and other decorative items.

Agra (Uttar Pradesh), Chhatrapur, Orchha (Central India), Tinitani, Salem, Cuddapah (Tamil Nadu), Mysore, Nullar (Karnataka) are the few important centers of soapstone carvings. Model of Taj Mahal, boxes, plate, paperweights; photo-frame are made at Agra Center. These objects are beautifully decorated with floral and perforated patterns.

Variety of objects with great intricacy is the main feature of the soapstone carving which is sometimes painted or inlayed and which makes very attractive.

Marble Inlay Art
Marble Inlay Art originated under Shah Jahan�s patronage and can be found in the architecture of the Taj Mahal. The artifacts in marble inlay have floral and geometrical patterns chiseled on them. Further embellished and inlayed with semi precious stones like mother of pearl, turquoise, lapis, malachite, coral cornelian and jasper make each piece price-less.

Inlay Work
Inlay work is the Mughal Art done by Artisans in Agra (Uttar Pradesh) since Mughal period. This art is inspired from the great monuments �Taj Mahal� which was built during Mughal period by Shahjahan.

Inlay work done on Marble is of semiprecious stone like lapisluzli, malachite, cornelian, mother of pearl, coral, turquoise and many other semi precious stones.

First of all Artisan makes a design of flowers, borders leaves in different shapes on the product made up of marble by hand than they choose the semiprecious stone of different colour to give natural look according to the design.

Artisan use only hand tools for making marble inlay products. All the different shapes like leaves, flowers, borders etc. are created by hand by the skilled craftsmen. It nearly takes a day to create a small flower in semi precious stone.

After completing the design with semi precious stones, the Artisan fit small pieces of semi precious stones in Marble with the help of small iron pin tool called (TAAKI) and fix stone pieces with the paste made up of glue and stone powder. It takes almost a month to complete one tile or plate like 12 x 12 inches.

After fixing all pieces of the design they make the level equal with the help of sand paper and then they do polishing by hand to make them shiny and beautiful. Decorative and utility product like table top, plates, boxes, pen and card holder, vases etc. are famous for inlay work.

Khurja Pottery
Khurja in Uttar Pradesh is a famous centre for its traditional potteries. The potter of this area has evolved a style of his own. He has given the craft patterns in relief with the use of thick slips. The tradition is relatively new in comparison with other pottery trends, though pottery itself is as basic form and texture of the tradition, the potter maintains the basic form and texture of the article. There is find harmonious blends of colours which makes the pottery pleasing to the eye. The craft fascinates not only because of the form but also the texture of the craft items. The potter of Khurja also excels with the delights use of warm autumnal colours like orange, brown and a special light red. Floral designs in sky blue are worked against a white background. A speciality of Khurja is the pitcher like form decorated in relief by a thick slip. These water pots are noted for their uniform green blue glazes with plain surface, the base being prepared from red clay. Khurja pottery is famous all over the country and is now finding a ready market abroad.

Blue Pottery From Jaipur
The blue pottery of Jaipur is unique and hence of great interest in the past and even today it is very popular in the national and international market. Since the blue colour is dominant on the white background pottery therefore it is known as blue pottery, otherwise various other colours like yellow, green, maroon and black colours are also used in the pottery of Jaipur.

Jaipur pottery is not made of clay but of ground feldspar (burbura) mixed with gum or starch. It can be wielded by hand only, not on the potter�s wheel and locally known as kamchini.

The art appears to have originated in Delhi under the chief artist, by the Hindu kumhar called Bhola. It seems probable that its production arose from a desire to compete with the imported jars, known as martabans, which came to Delhi all the way from the fort of that name on the coast of Burma. One of the pupils of Bhola was induced to joint the School of Art, Jaipur leading to the large demand for Jaipur pottery. The similarity in shape and material is striking. At first the designs and colouring adopted by the Delhi potter were strongly Hindu in character, but later on they became much more Muhammadan and consisted of rich shades of pale blue (occasionally green also) on a granular but pure white surface.

Jaipur school of blue pottery is formerly differed from Delhi and attained its reputation and popularity through the use of two shades of blue cobalt and turquoise on opaque white. Recently it has turned its attention to modern Persian models and has produced pottery with an admixture of green leaves and brown and yellow flowers that appears distinctly inferior to the older tradition.

Vases of various sizes, cooking vessel, decorated tiles and other utility items were made in blue pottery of Jaipur.

Jaipur, Alwar, Ajmer, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan are famous for their creative and intricate marble work. The idol images of Hindu and Jain pantheon or assorted sizes are the main creation in marble stone. These images are made mainly in white marble and were painted with rich, bright colours especially the attire.

Besides deity�s idols, large number of animal figures and other articles in white, black and pink marble in conventional forms and positions are also made throughout in this region. Apart from idol and animal figures one can often find the utility things like boxes, frames, bookends, pen stand etc. These are made artistically and sometimes studded with semi-precious stones, which add grace and charm to the artifacts.

Marble and Stone From Agra
Uttar Pradesh is one of the leading producing of stone, which is carved both for utilitarian and decorative purposes. Agra, which currently accounts for the bulk of India�s production provides employment to about 1000 artisans. The Taj Mahal in miniature, tables and handing lamps are chiseled out of soft marble and white Italian alabaster. Table tops, plates, Dishes, Elephant are carved out of hard and durable, fine grained white Makrana Marble and artistically inlaid with a traditional variety of semi precious stones. Pen stand, Card holder, photo frame, tray, ashtray are fashioned from the soft streaked Goraheri stone in many shades and are frequently inlaid with simple motif. Makrana Marble, table tops and other wave, particularly when inlaid with semi precious stones dominate the market.

Mughal Miniature Painting (16TH - 19TH Century)
Mughal painting is essentially an art of miniature painting and when enlarged, becomes as easel picture. The evolution of Mughal miniature painting roughly spanned for three centuries from sixteen to nineteenth century.

The story of Mughal paintings in India may be said to begin with Khwaja Abdus Samad of Shiraz, who was patronized by the Mughal Emperor Humayun and continued in the time of Akbar. Abdus Samad, Basman and Masur were some of the great masters of the Mughal court, who worked according to their master�s ideology.

Mughal paintings marked a colourful phase of the Indian cultural history, which is closely related to the emperor�s personalities, it received their patronage. From emperor�s depiction to their courtly activities and war scenes to animal hunting, nature and bird/animal study are some of features of these paintings. Treatment of background and the landscape, all gave new depth to miniature paintings of this period.

For making the Mughal miniature paintings artist have used the soft tones, atmospheric effects and its precise outlines and restrain. Influenced by the Emperor�s personalities, it received their lavish patronage. An impressive range of painted visuals supplements the wealth of details from memoirs, chronicles and travellers�s accounts, to make for a richer experience of the by gone glories of Mughal Court.

Mughal art started as an art of illustration in the manuscripts, also excelled in portraiture. Emperor�s portrait paintings in their court scenes are a great feast for the eyes.

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