From paper to glass

CDI is introducing glass painting among Papier Machie artists. Haroon Mirani reports.

Products painted by Paper Machie artists under CDI initiative.
Products painted by Paper Machie artists under CDI initiative.

Aiming to diversify the skill of Papeir Machie artists in Kashmir. Glass painting is expected to help reduce saturation in Papier Machie trade. More than one lakh people are associated with the trade in Kashmir. In 2007-08, the state exported Papier Machie products worth Rs 33.06 crore. The experiment has so far gone well with both artists and handicraft traders. Director CDI M S Farooqi says the experiment is an attempt “to diversify the skills of our artisans and use it to optimum.”

“We thought that if we have skill of beautiful painting, why not apply the same on glass to get a new product with good demand in the market,” says Farooqi. CDI recently held a 20-day long workshop on glass painting for 43 Papier Machie artisans. The workshop was conducted by a renowned glass artist Vijay Kaushik from New Delhi.

Kaushik taught craftsmen the basics of glass painting. The workshop also discussed techniques and ways to indigenise glass painting to local environs.
The artists worked on both imported glass as well as the local made glass products. Explaining the differences between the two arts, Akhtar Hussain, a Workshop Assistant at the CDI says, “Unlike Papier Machie, glass painting the products have to be dried in an oven rather than under sun.”

The oven heat fuses colours with the glass to make it permanent, durable, attractive and lasting. Colours used in glass painting are finely powdered glasses of different shades which merge with glass surface upon heating.
The painting is not limited to glass products. It can be applied to ceramics as well. In the workshop, the artisans painted on variety of glass and ceramic products like bowls, tiles, glass pane, cups, jars with different designs and colour combinations. “The glass painting in other states is of different type. Here we have some constraints due to climate, availability of raw materials and typical Kashmiri style of painting,” says Farooqi. “So this workshop chalked out ways to make it more Kashmir specific.”

Initially, the artists struggled to get their hands right on the new medium but soon they mastered the art with a fair amount of accuracy.  Glass painting is regarded lucrative because of its demand in domestic as well as international market, but very little glass work is done in Kashmir. One of the major reasons is the non-availability of raw material.

Experts feel that blending of Kashmiri painting on glass will get good response from the markets. “There are number of ways by which we can promote our glass products”, says Farooqi. “We can sell pure Kashmiri saffron in these painted glass boxes that will be an added attraction as well as value addition.”

Glass painting can also be utilized in constructions. Doors, windows and even ceilings and other places of light penetration can be decorated with glass painting in homes and offices.  Glass painting can be used to add value to products of tableware like cups, saucers and glasses. With a unique style of painting, Kashmiri artisans can go on to tap the premier market for ceramics and glass in India. “It is not bad to have hand painted and hand made glass products, it will definitely have good buyers,” says Farooqi.

The trade has been facing stagnation for the last many years.  Experts say that the main problem with Papier Machie craft is mass market production by the artisans which restricts them from producing quality goods for high end market. Coupled with lack of innovations to meet the challenges of changing tastes and trends, the mass market production has stalled the progress of Papier Mache craft in Kashmir. With stiff competition from other states, Papier Machie artisans have been surviving on meagre wages.

Farooqi say glass painting holds promise for these craftsmen. “A number of their problems can be addressed if the Papier Machie artisans switch over to glass painting craft. They can explore virgin markets with better wages and also reduce the saturation in Papier Mache craft.”

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