Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Timeless Art Of Bone Inlay

The intricate and timeless art of bone inlay is a tradition that has been handed down through generations and is practiced in Udaipur, Jodhpur and Jaipur regions of Rajasthan in India. Handmade and crafted to the highest specifications, the art of bone inlay has its origins in the royal palaces of Rajasthan where Maharajas commissioned extravagant inlay furniture pieces such as cabinets, chests, tables, chairs and even mirrors. This intriguing art is unique to India and the skilfully handcrafted bone inlay furniture pieces are exported around the world for their intricate patterns and incredible style.

Arrangement of bone carvings on timber

Inlay is the technique of inserting pieces of contrasting material into depressions made on a base object. In bone inlay, the discarded bones of camels passed away due to natural causes are used. So one can enjoy these fine furniture pieces without feeling guilty because no animal is harmed.

The production of bone inlay furniture is a three step process and requires up to a month to create. First the fragments of camel bones are shaped delicately. Then these intricate shapes are affixed onto timber frame in a detailed pattern. After this, resin is filled around the bone shapes to craft the background. The bone pieces are offset by striking colour of the resin to create an exotic looking oriental piece of furniture.

The best part of bone inlay furniture is that they are visually stunning with beautiful and unique patterns and no two pieces are same. These furniture are truly extravagant and so exquisite that one cannot deny the craftsmanship involved.

White bone inlay console table

Craftsmen these days are involved in modern styling of bone inlay in keeping with the age old tradition to create a range of stunning furniture that is functional, stylish and long-lasting. Bedsalmirahs and console tables crafted with bone inlay are the perfect examples for furniture that are stylish and practical too. These furniture are available in pastel shades and also in subdued lighter colours such as white bone inlay. There are endless possibilities of interesting and beautiful designs on chests, mirrors, tables and frames. Crafted with lot of care and brilliance, these splendid furniture pieces are sure to draw attention and complement a monochromatic space. 

bone inlay bedside table

Use the bone inlay furniture pieces as attention grabbing accent for your home. The bedside tables and chests crafted with bone inlay add the most exquisite touch to a plain style bedroom. The mirrors are perfect adornment for walls and the bone inlay stools add the finishing touches to any living space. Bone inlay trays are perfect for styling your coffee tables or desks. These also make great gifts for your loved ones.

Become a part of this rich history and bring the opulence of Indian palaces to your home with the signature pieces of bone inlay furniture which will add flair to your home interiors.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Koftgari- Indian form of damascening

When we look at the glorious past of India, the bygone era of Rajputs has been one of great eminence and bravery. To date, the Rajputs are known for their ceremonious weaponry intricately handcrafted with koftgari art.

Koftgari Sword

The art of koftgari (Indian damascening) closely resembles the damascening found in Persia. This coveted art form was extolled by Sikligar community (found in the states of Gujrat, Punjab and Haryana in India) who handcrafted exquisitely ornamented yet functional arms for the Rajputs and Mughals. Koftgari is now practiced by the artisans of Udaipur region of Rajasthan in India.

The base for koftgari artwork is a hard metal like steel, iron or bronze and the inlay is a soft metal like gold or silver. This combination prevents the base from deforming when the wire inlay is hammered into the surface and results in the inlaid areas being well-defined and of sharp appearance.


Koftgari process

The base metal is first scratched with a knife (chirni) in a very close cross-hatch pattern. Then fine silver wire is inlaid with the help of a pointed tool called “salai” in the etched grooves to make outline for the patterns. After this, the main design is filled with gold or silver wires. Once the motifs are filled, the outlining silver wires are removed and melted for reuse. The article is then patinated by holding it over a charcoal fire until the desired purple-black colour is attained. It is then polished with hakik (agate) stone and quenched and treated with vegetable oil to preserve the colour. Designs that use both gold and silver wires are called ganga-jamuna koftgari.

Patterned Dagger

During the Mughal and Rajput rule, the craftsmen often adorned swords, shields, armors, helmets, knives and daggers for the royals but the modern day artisans are giving new dimension to this art by ornamenting domestic items such as jewellery boxes, betel containers, mirror frames. 

Animal Head Dagger
Beautiful handles daggers and knives carved in the shape of different animal heads are quite popular today. These make the perfect gift for any occasion and can be used as wall adornments or even as a stylish paper cutter. The intricate koftgari workmanship on these daggers make them a collector’s prized possession.

Koftgari handcrafted products are amazing stand-out pieces of art with intricate patterns and incredible style. This unique, magnificent and regal craft is amour-propre of India and every piece is a treasure on its own.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Handcrafted Marble Artifacts - Bring Home Royalty

Mention marble artifacts and the first thing that pops up in our mind is elegance with a touch of royalty, and rightly so. The superfine quality of this exquisite objet d’art with its intricate carvings surely adds lushness and luxury to our lifestyle.

Marble Products in Romblon,Philippines.
Marble is a rock resulting from metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks, most commonly limestone or dolomite rocks. Pure white marble is the result of metamorphism of a very pure (silicate-poor) limestone or dolomite protolith. The characteristic swirls and veins of many colored marble varieties are usually due to various mineral impurities such as clay, silt, sand, iron oxides, or chert which were originally present as grains or layers in the limestone. Green coloration is often due to serpentine resulting from originally high magnesium limestone or dolostone with silica impurities. These various impurities have been mobilized and recrystallized by the intense pressure and heat of the metamorphism.

Marble is spatially distributed across the globe with famous ones like Fausky in Norway, Carrara in Italy, Galala in Egypt, Makrana in India etc. As the favorite medium for Greek and Roman sculptors and architects, marble has become a cultural symbol of tradition and refined taste.

The Taj Mahal is entirely clad in marble.

The rich cultural heritage of handcrafted marble artifacts, honed through generations of family expertise, are found across India in the states of Rajasthan, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Makrana, a large town in Nagaur district of Rajasthan, is the main depository of marble and accounts for over 90% of total marble production in India. Makrana marbles are the oldest and best quality marbles that need no chemical reinforcement. This white marble is soft, easy to carve and has a relative resistance to shattering and has been prized for its use in sculptures since ancient times. The Makrana marble was used in construction of many famous buildings including Taj Mahal, The White House USA, Victoria Memorial of Kolkata, National Assembly of Pakistan.

Gold Embossed and Meenakari Marble Vase.

The hand carvings on high grade Makrana marbles combined with meenakari and kundan work bring the feel of royal Rajasthan to your home. They have also earned immense popularity in the global market. The exotic range of embossed and golden foil work designs on these handicrafts make them ideal gift for different celebrations and festivities. The unmatched beauty of these Makrana marble artifacts with strong aesthetic appeal is great for home and garden d├ęcor. The family oriented gifts such as table clock, pen and mobile holders, flower vase, utility containers and gemstone paintings hold great value for the receiver. They are also ideal for promotional corporate gifting.

Make every occasion memorable with these classic and everlasting handcrafted marble artifacts. These timeless gifts are splendid and have great merits too and will be greatly appreciated by your loved one. Enjoy the wide range of exquisite marble artifacts on CraftsMart.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Indian leather industry and the myth about designer brands

When you think of leather, what are the first three words come to your mind? In my mind I got : Expensive, Designer, Italian. Almost everyone in India thinks that leather goods are made in Italy are best, and they are super expensive. But the matter of fact is that most of the international designer brands are manufactured in India, and only the branding is done in Italy. Before I make a deep dive in today's leather goods' market scenario, lets just have a look at history of leather processing, tanning and final products' manufacturing.

Old painting of leather processing units in Europe
Leather tanning is without a doubt one of the oldest human activities.  In the beginning, skins obtained from hunting and livestock breeding could be used for clothing or tents, but they became stiff at low temperatures, while they rotted with heat.  It was probably then that attempts were made to render them more flexible and stronger by rubbing in animal fats. Another process was smoking, which almost certainly started by accident, and which later became formaldehyde tanning. Vegetable tanning was also known in very ancient times although it is not clear how the tanning action of the tannin contained in the bark of some plants (especially oak) was discovered. Another method known since the earliest times is tanning, based on the use of alum, a mineral which is fairly widespread in nature, particularly in volcanic areas. 

These methods, which gradually became more refined and efficient, allowed skins to be used in the ancient world and continued to do so for century after century up to the present day.  That the use of these techniques was widespread is witnessed by numerous written documents and paintings as well as archaeological finds.  In Mesopotamia between the fifth and the third millennium B.C., for example, the Sumerians used skins for long dresses and diadems for ladies. The Assyrians used leather for footwear but also for liquid containers and as inflated floats for rafts.  

Tanning process - to give different shades to leather
The ancient Indian civilization first processed the type of leather known as the "Morocco" today. The age old tradition of leather craft in India is proved by ancient sages and ascetics, who used to sit on deerskin for meditation and other such works. In the past, leather was not only used in making clothes and footwear but also in making caps, bags, saddles, armor etc. India is famous world wide for its leather products. In the rural areas of India, hide from cattle and camel is locally cured and after tanning, it is used to make different items. Different regions of India have different leather products to offer.

Today, The Leather Industry holds a prominent place in the Indian economy. This sector is known for its consistency in high export earnings and it is among the top ten foreign exchange earners for the country. The leather industry is an employment intensive sector, providing job to about 2.5 million people, mostly from the weaker sections of the society. Women employment is predominant in leather products sector with about 30% share. India is the second largest producer of footwear and leather garments in the world.

Lets have a look at some of the world known brands which are sourced from India-

Leather Garments
Leather Goods / Accessories
Acme, Ann Taylor, Bally, Charter Club, Clarks, Coach, Colehann, Daniel Hector, Deichmann, DKNY, Double H, Ecco, Elefanten, Etienneaigner, Florsheim, Gabor, Geoffrey Beene, Guess, Harrods, Hasley, Hush Puppies, Kenneth Cole, Liz Claiborne, Marks & Spencer, Nautica, Next, Nike, Cole Haan, Nunn Bush, Pierre Cardin, Reebok, Rockport, Salamander, Stacy Adams, Tommy Hilfiger, Tony Lama, Versace, Yves St. Laurent, Zara, Johnston & Murphy, Docksteps, Timberland, Armani, Geox, Diesel, Ted Baker, Lacoste, Kickers, Calvin Klein, Sioux, Brasher, Zegna, Massimu Dutti, Buggatti, Lloyd, Christian Dier, Salamander, Camper, Bata, Espirit, French Connection, Legero, Mercedez, H & M and many more famous brandsArmani, Zegna, Abercrombie & Fitch, Marco Polo, Mango, Colehaan, Andre
Maarc, Guess Pierre Cardin, Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, DKNY, Liz Claiborne, Ann Taylor, Nautica, Kenneth Cole, Charter Club, Daniel Hector
Coach, Liz Claiborne, Harrods, Yves St, Laurent, Tommy Hilfiger, Etienne Aigner, Geoffrey Beene,
Marks & Spencer, Guess, Next, Pierre Cardin, Prada, GAP, Levis, H & M, British Home Stores, Banana Republic, Furla, American Eagle Outfitters, Bracciliani, Walmart etc.

One of the handmade product of Rajasthan
As you can see many international brands are using Indian leather, but the same leather products are not available to indian consumers. Also, the families which are in this business for generations are not getting proportionate share of what the final products earn. If you buy the same product in indian market (without the branding of course), you will get it in at least 1/5th price you pay for luxury brands. At the same time, you are helping the family run business to thrive and make their own livelihood instead of them being dependent upon middleman. If the final product can be as good as this image (on right), why do we even need a luxury brand. Ending the blog with this thought to ponder over. Thanks for reading.


2. Wiki

Ancient Terracotta Art Finding Its way in Modern India

Ancient Terracotta Art Finding Its way in Modern India

In fine art, the word Terracotta ("baked earth") is most commonly used to describe a type of sculpture, un-glazed ceramic art, or decorative architecture, made from a coarse, porous clay, which is noted for its versatility, cheapness and durability. Terracotta was widely used in ancient art, notably in Chinese Pottery (from 10,000 BCE) and in Greek Pottery (from 7,000 BCE), as well as Mesopotamian sculpture and Egyptian sculpture, plus Minoan art from Crete, and Etruscan art on the Italian mainland. Terracotta statues were prevalent in Greek architecture - notably for temple decoration - while terracotta reliefs were a common feature of Roman architecture. The art of terracotta was revived during the Italian Renaissance, and underwent a further revival during the 19th century.

Old plaque of a tribal deity
Terracotta Art in India has been flourishing since the times of Indus Valley Civilization. Terracotta Art in India is another form of clay art of the country generally brownish orange in color. Various excavations at  Mohenjodaro and Harappa have unearthed several terracotta items in the form of various figures and figurines. Terracotta figures also have a ritualistic aspect associated with it. This becomes evident from the fact that many terracotta figures of deities are used in a number of auspicious occasions. In fact terracotta art in India is considered mystical because it incorporates within the five vital elements like air, fire, earth, water and ether. 

Molela, a village near Udaipur, Rajasthan has given a new meaning to this ancient art, and artisans in this village are keeping the tradition alive. The distinction here lies in the terracotta plaques made here, only here all over India. Made as a flat surface, unlike the usual idols made elsewhere, this craft is unique in design. The Maru potters of Molela near Udaipur in Rajasthan, are famous for their terracotta plaques depicting votive images. Produced mainly for their tribal customers, these are given for the shrines of their tribal gods. The Bhil tribals are the main customers of the potters, travelling hundreds of kilometers from the borders of Madhya Pradesh to purchase these plaques. 

Large TerraCotta  Design outside Udaipur city railway station
Simple hand forming techniques are involved in making these plaques. The clay is dug locally. It is mixed with donkey manure, roughly in a one is to four ratio; this is done to give the clay pliability. A slab is made with the distinctive dome-shaped top; the edges are raised to form the rim of the slab. The figures are formed with the fingers and must be hollow, so they do not burst in the kiln. These figures are completed by adding accessories like jewellery on them, made of tiny balls of clay. The plaques are dried for nine days. The firing is done in a temporary kiln.

Padma Shri Mohan Lal Kumhar With President Pratibha Patil
Recently these potters have also been noticed by architects and decorators and have gained much prominence. Their art and craft is being used to decorate the walls of urban Indian homes, farmhouses and corporate offices. This exposure has also helped them to interact with the Western market and they have demonstrated their production techniques in America, Europe and Japan. The demand has also had an effect on the style of their work. The potters often make larger plaques and instead of the traditional images they often depict local scenes of everyday life. 
This new social prominence has helped the Molela potters to raise their own living standards. More potters are being attracted to go back to their roots due to improved economic conditions. The Government of India has also recognized their talent and awarded Master Craftsmen status to some of the potters. Some of the potters are awarded with prestigious padma awards.