India has a rich metal craft tradition dating back to about 3rd Century B.C. Among some other alloys, India is credited with the creation of brass over 2 centuries ago by fusing copper and zinc in a particular proportion. Every state has its own tradition of casting metal into various forms depending on availability of raw material, weather conditions and local history of metal craft. The Hindus considered metal to be superior base resources due to its permanence and also because it had to be 'purified' in fire before being turned into articles of daily use, jewellery or figures of deities. While metal work can be seen in true splendour in the various temples and the ubiquitous gold and silver jewellery, some metal crafts used to create artefacts for home use have found their patrons in the urban homes today.

Some of the metal crafts that Kala Tarang showcases in its exhibitions - Dhokra, and Bidri.

Dhokra

The lost-wax (also known as cire-perdue) technique of casting metal is practised by the tribes of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. Though the basic process is the same, the tribes vary in the use of raw materials and also some techniques used. Figurines representing various aspects of village life, votive offerings to deities, vitality of forest life are some of the creations of this metal craft.

The lost wax method is a skill intensive process and has almost 12 stages. The raw materials used are pure brass along with scraps of different metals to get an alloy with an antique finish. First, a basic structure of the desired design is made in mud and rice husk, and the structure is covered with fine clay. At this stage the detailed design required is made on the form using very thin molten wax strips. Thereafter a second mould of coarse-grained clay and mud is used to cover the wax image. An opening is left on the mould to pour molten alloy into the hollow space. When the molten metal is poured into the mould, the wax melts and the metal takes the place of the wax. Then it is kept aside to cool down and the mould is broken down to get the brass object. Finally, the work is finished by removing the remaining clay from the object.

The end results of this painstaking process are figurines with an antique-y look that will enhance the charm of any display cabinet.
At Kala Tarang exhibitions: Figurines, Wall Hooks, door handles, paper weights etc.

Bidri

Bidri metal items can be distinguished by the exquisite silver etchings on a dark black surface. The art of Bidri probably came to India with the Persians some 400 years back. Patronised by royalty this unique art of metal surface decoration was used to decorate swords and weapons and later articles of decoration or daily use.

In Bidri after the basic article is made with an alloy of copper and zinc, freehand designs are etched with a metal stylus. Silver in the form of fine wire or flat sheeting is hammered into these chiseled groves with great care.

Now the Bidri item is ready for the final step of making the surface permanently black so that the silver inlay design will stand out in bright contrast against the dark background. The article is then rubbed with a paste of ammonium chloride, water and a special type of soil obtained from the ruins of the 300 years old Bidar fort. The paste darkens the body of the piece, but has no effect on the silver inlay. As the paste is rinsed off, the design springs dramatically into view, the shining silver resplendent against the black surface.

The result is a scintillating silver pattern contrasted against the dark matt background. It is this contrast that lends Bidri items its uniqueness and charm.
At Kala Tarang exhibitions: Decorative vases, jewellery boxes, ashtrays, bangles and more

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