Papier mache, the Kashmir craft of antiquity

700 years ago Persia was the centre of active trade between the Middle East and Europe. Fine hand-made goods such as carved wood artefacts, textiles, woven carpets and ceramics from Persia found markets in places such as Greece, Turkey and Italy. 13th C Mongol invasions introduced papier mache from China. Around this time, a king of Persia named Syed Ali happened to travel to the valley of Kashmir. He saw the local people languishing for lack of work during the long cold winters and saw an opportunity to give them livelihood and at the same time, enlarge his treasury. He arranged to bring master craftsmen and embroiderers from Persia to Kashmir to train the local people in the great crafts of his home country. It was only matter of time before theyacquired the fine handcrafting skills worthy of purchase by the nobility of Europe. Within a few decades, Kashmir grew into a hub for crafts in its own right.

Most of the papier mache you see at is created by descendants of those early artisans of Kashmir. Listen with wonder to any one of these expert craftsmen as he describes the various stages of the painstaking craft, starting with the 15-day process just to prepare a surface for sketching; then the drawing, painting, defining and glazing of the glorious images familiar in Islamic art – trees, forests, foliage, lilies, tulips, cantering horses and soaring birds. It is hard to believe that all of this beauty started out as ‘mashed paper’.

Browse this site for this ancient and prized craft, endangered in these uncertain times. Select from this rare collection while it is still available, in a variety of forms and shapes, a beautiful throwback to a lost era of history.

Tags: Papier mache, painted, hand painted, paper, painting, Kashmir, Kashmiri