NID - Craft Documentation...

Jodhpur  Wooden Craft Furniture of Rajasthan
by Manish Chandra
Barmer | Kishangarh | Shekhavati | Tiloniya | Udaipur

painting in progress

typical miniature painting

assembled table

painted partition screen

assembled table

painted partition screen

Jodhpur can be called the commercial centre for craft in Rajasthan. With countless number of emporia and manufacturing units to feed these demands; to its credit the city seems like a huge factory where these so called craftsmen work like machines.
In the hustle and bustle of the city prospers the intricate art of delicate Pichwai paintings. Traditionally executed on silk, this form of painting has evolved and found its application on countless products, of which furniture is one. Like the craft furniture of Tiloniya, it also functions here in two levels. There are these carpenters who work endlessly producing furniture pieces as per the market demand. Then there are these highly skilled painters who convert these ordinary wooden structures to gold by the strokes of their brushes.

This craft bears a close resemblance to the furniture of Kishangarh. There too are a prospering section of craftsmen from Barmer, who make intricately carved and decorative furniture which Barmer is renowned for.

All this in Jodhpur exits in the milieu of production units churning out toys and table pieces like newspaper fresh from the press. These articles then pass off as handicraft at the line of emporia found in every corner of Jodhpur fetching enormous profits from unsuspecting tourists.

The Place
Jodhpur is a large city, situated 317 kilometres west of Jaipur, and is well connected by air, road and rail to most of Rajasthan, and many other parts of the country. Jodhpur stands on a range of sandstone hills surrounded by a strong wall nearly 10 kilometres in length, which has seven gates. Dominating over the city is the massive Meherangarh fort, atop a steep hill. The city below provides a market for nearly all types of crafts of Rajasthan. Craftsmen from different parts of the state have come and settled in Jodhpur, either working for production units, or are on their own.

The People
The city dominated by the Rathore clan of the Rajputs has now acquired more or less a cosmopolitan nature.

There are numerous carpenters of the Suthar caste who make furniture, on which artists from different sections paint upon. With the market demand on the rise, more and more people are entering this profession.
At the workplace of any practicing artist, one can see a number of young apprentices working, who would after gaining a certain proficiency, go out in the market and fend for themselves.

Most of the craftsmen have well adjusted to the city life and are able to provide a decent style of living for their families.

The Craft
The craft furniture done at Jodhpur is similar to the ones of Kishangarh. It comprises of a range of furniture articles which have beautiful paintings done on them.
These paintings have been inspired by the Pichwai paintings, which are a traditional way of painting on silk and other cloth material, using vegetable and stone dyes, and were used for the decorations behind the deities in the temples of Rajasthan. Radha-Krishna used to be the most popular theme, and the characteristic feature was the lack of perspective in the paintings (in terms of visual correctness).
In the recent times, a lot of bold floral motifs and the Mughal influence can be seen. Poster colour is also used as an easy alternative.

This form of painting is now being done on all kinds of surfaces, such as wood, metal, leather and clay. Before the painting is done on the furniture and other wooden articles, a coating of putty is applied, and the surface is finished using emery paper. After this, the guidelines are pencilled, over which the painting is executed. Finally, a coat of Touchwood is applied.

The modern painting bears similarity to the traditional ones in respect to form, colours, motifs and themes, and as a matter of fact, painters keep catalogues to draw constant references from. These painters also do copies of masterpieces.
However a lot of new generation painters do quite a degree of original work, which are considerably different from the traditional ones; and this attitude is giving the traditional Jodhpuri furniture a new contemporary look.

Raw Material and Tools
The tools and raw material, along with the finishes used are very similar to those being used at Kishangarh. Please refer to the Kishangarh section.
The Market

Marketing of craft furniture in Jodhpur is not very organised. The craftsmen generally sell their work through middlemen, or directly through the emporia. However, there exists a sizeable irregularity in the payments, and the craftsmen, being in constant need of money, often get exploited.

With RSIC taking interest in the marketing, the craftsmen get good prompt money from this source. Craft melas and exhibitions also provide a good opportunity to the craftsmen to sell their work and get a good understanding of the buyers’ (market) needs.

Problems and Suggestions
Starters and younger craftsmen generally face problems. When looking around for probable buyers, they get exploited by emporia owners and dealers. However, once they establish themselves, their lives become much easier.

A lot of encouragement is coming from the government. In spite of that, a great need is felt in the field of organising the marketing and formal training requirements to be imparted to the entrants to enable them to understand the art of painting in the correct perspective, and carry the tradition forward in the true spirit.


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