Apart from the beauty, perhaps turmoil and the hospitality, Kashmir is known for something else as well. That’s its capacity to produce superior craftsmen. Kashmir has traditionally relied heavily on the production and exports of handicrafts, which has made designing and craftsmanship a historic career choice in Kashmir.
I was just thinking about the stunning design sense of Kashmiri artists and that’s why I thought of writing this post. Although, design in the modern world has moved to cutting edge technologies, handicrafts still find a place of their own. I would rather say that, handicrafts have a strong hold in the luxury segment of fashion, decor and lifestyle.
In any case, let us have a look at the 8 most historic design related careers in Kashmir.
Kashmiri shawls, especially the Pashmina shawls and the shahtosh are renowned all over the world for their artistic work, beauty, and grandeur. Even the Mughal Emperors were highly fascinated by Pashmina & Shahtosh. But shahtosh is banned now!
Kashmiri shawls are of a very high quality and are crafted from very fine materials. They may be decorated by Sozni work, Tilla Work, Aari Work, Paper Mache work, Kalamkari Work etc. Exports of shawls has always been a big source of income for the state of Kashmir.
Kashmiri shawls are mainly made from three kinds of threads which include regular wool, pashmina, and shahtoosh. Different kinds of shawls are priced differently and the most expensive among these is shahtoosh. This being said, woolen shawls are the most affordable.
Craftsmen of pashmina have given it a global acceptance and have made it one of the most famous hand made accessories in the world.
Kashmiri carpets are very popular not only in India but across the world. The main specialty of these carpets is that they are hand-woven and knotted and not tufted. The carpet weaving art in Kashmir is passed from one generation to another. You have to get trained from an expert or the “wosta”.
The threads used in carpets that are made in Kashmir are generally those of pure silk. At times they may be pure wool and occasionally a blend of silk and wool. Kashmiris have an old tradition in the manufacturing of carpets.
Kashmir artisans have won a great reputation for their special skill in art manufacturing carpets. Kashmiri carpets have intricate designs such as paisley, almonds, chinar – tree and the tree-of-life. These are the trademark designs as we may call. Kashmiri carpets are one of the most famous sought- after artworks all around the world.
Namda art originated in the 11th century when the King Akbar ordered for coverage for his horse who was affected by cold. Namda is made from layers of wool flattened over each other. These are very cheap as compared to the silken carpets and are perfect for winters. They thus can be thought to be a common man’s carpet.
Namdas are decorated with beautiful chain stitch work. Although the art is dying, namda rugs have been in very high demand both in national and international markets.
4. Papier Mache
It is the craft that involves the transformation of the pulp of paper and adhesive into decorated artifacts such as jewelry boxes, pen stands, coasters, photo frames, flower vases, bowls, elephant models, etc. It is also known as one of the most popular and beautiful handicrafts of Kashmir.
It is believed that craft was brought from Iran to Kashmir by a Muslim scholar, Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani. This was in the 14th century and was it was quickly adopted by King Zain -ul- Abidin.
Paper Mache artifacts are very beautifully decorated and surprisingly lightweight, yet durable. Papier Mache objects are distinct in artistry and colors.
Silverware is one of the ancient arts of the Kashmir. It was passed down from one generation to next and continues to be that way. Ornamental picture-frames, tea-sets, flower vases, cigarette-cases, are some loved accessories crafted out of silver. I must have to admit again, this art is on the verge of death as well.
6. Wood Carving
It is one of the most popular cottage industries of the Kashmir. Wood Carving is considered among the most important crafts of Kashmir. Walnut wood carving is highly ornamental. It is a very delicate and precise craft.
Walnut wood has a very fine texture, smooth grain patterns, high durability, making the wood expensive. The value of the wooden piece of craft depends on the grain pattern of the wood used; the detailing of the carving and the part of the tree used. Just to let you know, the root is being the most expensive.
7. Silks & Tweeds
Sericulture, and tweed weaving are other famous handicraft industries of the Kashmir valley. The cocoon reared in Kashmir yields an extremely fine quality of silk. Perhaps because it is nourished on fine mulberry leaves. In around the early 1900s Kashmir’s silk production and quality was at par with that of some European countries. But again, today it is in a terrible state.
The ‘Chinon’ and ‘crepe de chine’ are some of the finest and the most renowned weaves of the Kashmiri silk.
Kashmir is also known for the best quality of tweed. Kashmiri tweed is woven with virgin wool and that makes it a very loved material.
Basketry is one of the oldest and the most popular crafts of Kashmir. The skin of willow trees that grow in abundance in the marshes and lakes of Kashmir is used to make some beautiful and unique objects. These items usually range from baskets to lampshades, tables, chairs, flower vases and so on.
These were some careers in design that Kashmiris have historically opted for. But with most of these industries dying, not many would want to opt for a career in any of them. This is why I choose to market Kashmiri Handicrafts to the world through my bootstrapped startup Kashmirica.
At Kashmirica we envision taking the Kashmiri Art Global so that we see a revival of these historic crafts of Kashmir.