Mhow, and the adjoining regions in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh have several clusters and self-help groups engaging in papier mache art and craft. The handicrafts typical to this area are also popularly known as leather crafts involving a skillful amalgamation of papier mache, clay art, sculpting and painting.
Though the districts of Indore and Dewas have many big entrepreneurs working in the specific area of leather toys, small groups and clusters, still foraying into this art form, practice this art with basics of papier mache work and other raw materials easily accessible to them.
Indeshwari Borashi (40) from Chikhli village in Mhow has been practicing papier mache and leather toy works since three years with the help of government schemes and local NGOs in the area. The famous products made by these women are animal figurines and utility items such as decorative furnishings crafted in various shapes and sizes. Horses, turtles, camels, small centre tables are some of the most popular handicrafts from this region.
The papier mache technique forms the sole basis of these products. Made with old newspapers, cardboard and other kinds of waste paper a mix of raw pulp is obtained by soaking these materials in water. Tamarind seeds are then used to prepare flour which is then mixed with the paper pulp so obtained. This blend is then mixed with glue which is also locally prepared from tamarind seeds. All ingredients are kneaded to obtain a paste.
The next steps include preparing frames as desired out of wires, and stuffing these structures/frames with hay so as to give these arrangements, volume. The entire frame is then tied with threads to keep stuffed hay intact, and to also obtain a robust skeleton of the desired figure – ready to be coated with paper and glue mixture.
The third step is to apply uniformly- the paper, clay and glue mixture to this rough skeleton so obtained. Extra care and precision is required to apply this mixture so as to give these ‘strictly physical sketches’- a smooth, uniform exterior, and to also render a definitive shape to the anatomy of the figure, done through and through with meticulous hand impressions.
The final stage involves the application of leather coating. Artisans belonging to bigger clusters and groups or those working with private entrepreneurs usually use a mix of all authentic ingredients. Thin films of cardboard and leather are finally cut, paste, coated neatly and homogenously so as to define the entire framework of animal skeletons, continued…