The Persian art of papier maché was brought to the Himalayan region of northern India centuries ago. Today the state of Kashmir is home to thousands of artisans who craft papier maché products for their livelihood. Artisans first soak used newspaper for several days until the paper disintegrates, then mixes it with cloth, rice or straw to form a pulp. The mixture is molded, dried and cut into shape. Artisans coat the surface with glue paste, rub it smooth with baked clay, and paste layers of tissue papers. The base color and motifs are all created freehand with non-toxic paints, then burnished and coated with lacquer.
Once known as “Paradise on Earth,” Kashmir suffered a dramatic decline in its once booming tourism industry due to violent territory disputes between India and Pakistan. Industry jobs are scarce and farming is impossible, so most villagers rely on craft production. With our design assistance, training and fair income partnership, this small group has expanded from 6 to 20 artisans. They now have access to new markets and are able to live better lives.