Dhokra (also spelt Dokra) is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used.
The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated.
The process of dhokra craft is long but the product is sure worth the wait. The lost wax casting technique used can be summarized as follows:
The first task in the casting process consists of developing a clay core which is roughly the shape of the final cast image. Next, the clay core is covered by a layer of wax composed of pure bee’s wax, resin from the tree Damara orientalis, and nut oil. The wax is then shaped and carved in all its finer details of design and decorations. It is then covered with layers of clay, which takes the negative form of the wax on the inside, thus becoming a mould for the metal that will be poured inside it. Drain ducts are left for the wax, which melts away when the clay is cooked. The wax is then replaced by the molten metal, often using brass scrap as basic raw material. The liquid metal poured in hardens between the core and the inner surface of the mould. The metal fills the mould and takes the same shape as the wax. The outer layer of clay is then chipped off and the metal icon is polished and finished as desired.
Here is a detailed video of the process. It is in hindi, but the process is the same as explained above.
Some finished products:
Lord Ganesh on a carriage pulled by his ‘vahan’ mouse:
A dhokra frame:
Bidriware is the most well known of Andhra’s handicrafts – a metal craft that derives its name from ‘Bidar’, the hometown of this exquisite craft. It is an art of inlaying silver on black metal and it is believed that this ancient and eye-catching craft entered India more than 4000 years ago from the culture-rich Persians, Syrians and Iranians. If one were to believe the craftsmen themselves, they say that the art originated in Iran seven centuries ago. It was brought down by migrants.
There are four main stages in the manufacture of Bidri. They are casting, engraving, inlaying and oxidising.
Behind the breathtaking beauty of Bidri lies hours of painstaking effort by the artisan. The original technique involved the inlaying of gold or silver on a steel or copper base. This method had its origins in Persia. However, the metal used for the base today is an alloy of zinc and copper because zinc gives the alloy a deep black color. It is engraved or overlaid with silver or brass. After casting and moulding, the surface is filed smooth till it acquires the typical Bidri sheen. It is then temporarily blackened with copper sulphate solution and etched into a traditional design using a sharp iron tool.
The designs are traced by hand, by the craftsmen with the help of chisels. Next, pure silver wire or sheet (gold in rare cases) is hammered into the grooves of the design and the surface smoothened with the help of a buffing machine. In the ultimate interesting stage, the articles are heated gently and treated with a solution of sal-ammoniac and earth taken from old fort buildings which has the effect of making the entire surface turn jet black providing a distinct contrast to the shining silver inlay.
Typical Bidri items include plates, bowls, vases, ashtrays, trinket boxes, huqqa bases, jewellery etc. Glass and studded bangles of Bidri are a favourite with women.
Kashmiri embroidery or kashida is colourful and beautiful as Kashmir itself. Embroiders often draw inspiration from the nature around. Motifs of flowers, creepers and chinar leaves, mango etc. are the most common ones.
The base cloth whether wool or cotton, is generally white or crème or other similar shades. Pastel colors are also often used. The craftsmen use the color shades often blending with the background.
Very few stitches are used on one fabric. At times the whole fabric is done in a single stitch type. These stitches are often called Kashmiri stitch. Kashmiri embroidery is known for the skilled execution of a single stitch. Chain stitch, satin stitch, the slanted darn stitch, stem, herringbone and sometimes the doori or knot stitches are used but not more than one or two at a time.
Kashida is now done on darker backgrounds as well.
Kashmiri embroidery on shawls:
Kashmiri embroidery on clothes:
Zardozi is an ancient Persian art (Zar in Persian means gold and Dozi is embroidery) which has been passed down for many generations. It dates back before the Mughal empire, reaching its zenith under the patronage of Emperor Akbar in the 17th century. Zardozi adorned the costumes of the court, wall hanging, scabbards, regal side walls of tents and the rich trappings of elephants and horses. Intricate patterns traced in gold and silver, studded with seed pearls and precious stones enhanced the shimmering beauty of silk, velvet and brocade.
Zardozi is fashioned with a needle that resembles a very small crochet hook which is used to run up and down through the cloth, much like a sewing machine, while the cloth is pulled tightly over a large wooden frame. Zardozi has remained as an appliqué method of embroidery. With one hand the craftsman holds a retaining thread below the fabric. In the other he holds a hook or a needle with which he picks up the appliqué materials. Then he passes the needle or hook through the fabric. After days of painstaking labor, the result is an exquisite gold-veined work of art.
Zardozi Christmas tree decorations:
Phulkaris and Baghs were worn by women all over Punjab during marriage festivals and other joyous occasions. They were embroidered by the women for their own use and use of other family members and were not for sale in the market. Thus, it was purely a domestic art which not only satisfied their inner urge for creation but brought colour into day to day life. In a way, it was true folk art. Custom had grown to give Phulkaris and Baghs to brides at the time of marriages. Some best Phulkaris and Baghs are known to have been made in Hazara and Chakwal, areas of Northern Punjab in Pakistan.
Some scholars feel that the art of Phulkari came from Iran where it is known as “Gulkari”. Some feel it came from Central Asia along with Jat tribes who migrated to India and settled in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat. There is reference of Phulkari in Vedas, Mahabharat, Guru Granth Sahib and folk songs of Punjab. In its present form, phulkari embroidery has been popular since the 15th century.
The main characteristics of Phulkari embroidery are use of darn stitch on the wrong side of coarse cotton cloth with coloured silken thread. Punjabi women created innumerable alluring and interesting designs and patterns by their skilful manipulation of the darn stitch.
In Phulkari embroidery ornaments the cloth, whereas in Bagh, it entirely covers the garment so that the base cloth is not visible.
Bawan Bagh (or Bawan Phulkari):“Bawan” means ” fifty-two ” in Punjabi and refers to the mosaic of fifty-two different patterns which decorate this piece (the number of patterns can be at times more or less than 52).
Bawan bagh (or phulkari) was in fact a display of samples used by professional embroiderers to show their skills and the patterns they could provide to their clients.
This explains why bawan bagh (or phulkari) is the rarest of all the bagh and phulkari.
Kantha is still the most popular form of embroidery practised by rural women. The traditional form of Kantha embroidery was done with soft dhotis and saris, with a simple running stitch along the edges. Depending on the use of the finished product they were known as Lepkantha or Sujni Kantha. The embroidered cloth has many uses including women’s shawls and covers for mirrors, boxes, and pillows. In the best examples, the entire cloth is covered with running stitches, employing beautiful motifs of flowers, animals birds and geometrical shapes, as well as themes from everyday activities. The stitching on the cloth gives it a slight wrinkled, wavy effect. Contemporary Kantha is applied to a wider range of garments such as sarees, dupatta, shirts for men and women, bedding and other furnishing fabrics, mostly using cotton and silk.
Neran embroidery has recently been singled out as a separate style. It was originally a stitch used in conjunction with Kharek and Pakko embroideries. Neran literally means eyebrows, and are units of button hole stitch formed into a curved shape.