Papier Mache is another form of handicraft that has brought J&K wide acclaim from all regions of the world. To make Papier Mache objects, the process is very long and tedious. First the paper is soaked in water till the time it completely dismantles. The paper is then mashed and is mixed with an adhesive solution. The pulp is then molded into desired shape and is dried. The outlay of the object is now ready. Now is the time for artisans to color it and draw intricate and brilliant designs on it. The product is now ready to hit the market. The first look on these splendorous object itself will compel you to make them your own. There are cheaper versions of Papier Mache as well that are made up of cardboard. Pen boxes, table lamps, show pieces and other decorative items are few that are made from Papier Mache.
At first glance, all papièr mâchè objects look roughly the same, but there is a price differential which depends on the quality of the product. However, besides at least three different grades of papièr mâchè, some are actually cardboard or wood! The idea, however, is not to hoodwink the unwary, but to provide a cheaper product with the look of papièr mâchè.
To make papièr mâchè, first paper is soaked in water till it disintegrates. It is then pounded, mixed with an adhesive solution, shaped over moulds, and allowed to dry and set before being printed and varnished. Paper that has been pounded to pulp has the smoothest finish in the final product. When the pounding has not been so thorough, the finish is less smooth. Artisan executing Papire Machie work
The designs painted on objects of papièr mâchè are brightly coloured. They vary in artistry and the choice of colours, and it is not difficult to tell a mediocre piece from an excellent one. Gold is used on most objects, either as the only colour, or as a highlight for certain motifs. Besides the finish of the product, it is the quality of gold used which determines the price. Pure gold leaf, which has an unmistakable lustre, is far more expensive than bronze dust or gold poster paint. Varnish, which is applied to the finished product, imparts a high gloss and smoothness, and increases with every coat applied.
Papier Mache, today, has become highly stylized and appealing by using real gold and silver paint and by adding intricate decorations. The designs and decorations of the Kashmiri Papier Mache, usually in the form of flowers and birds, have a strong Persian flavor. Among other rich designs are 'Arabesque', done in gold against a brown or red ground to show sprays of rose blossoms in fine lines and 'Yarkand', an elaborate design built up in spirals with gold rosettes radiating from various centers and white flowers laid over gold scroll work. Some items like bowls and vases are lined with brass, while on special orders boxes and other items are ornamented with gold and silver leaves and depict beautiful landscapes and objects like a house boat, that form an inseparable part of Kashmiri lifestyle.
The paper Mache objects produced in Kashmir today vary from Christmas ornaments to coasters and include boxes of every imaginable size and shape. These objects are not only beautifully decorated, but are surprisingly light and strong. Their coating of lacquer protects them from water and gives them extra durability.
Nowadays artisans have started using cardboard instead of paper. The object is not to deceive tourists but to reduce the price of these artifacts. Papier-mache vases, bowls and other decorative items have exquisite traditional designs in vibrant colors on them. The commonly used motifs on these artifacts are images of the maple leaf, kingfishers, flowers, birds and other attractive designs.