Engraving, EPNS, Filigree Handicrafts

Published: 14th June 2011
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Engraving may have been one of the earliest attempts at ornamentation by scratching lines or cutting. Engraving in metal is done with a blunt chisel. Punching creates a decorative effect by arrangement of lines and dots in a definite artistic pattern. Etching is similar to carving. The lines here are a lot thinner and superficial.

In decorative metalwork a variety of pictures can be depicted, like landscapes, court scenes, group dances, temples, deities, etc. Other items like trays, glasses, flower vases, pots, tables, chairs etc. too are prepared with this work.

Tanjavur, in Tamil Nadu, is known for encrusting metal on metal. This work is done at three different levels. The base plate is prepared by a heavy metal worker. The relief is done by a jeweller and encrusting by a stone setter.

Moradabad has now become synonymous with art metalwork. It is especially noted for its colored enamelling and intricate engraving in niello. 'Bidri' work, the most famous and the most sought after is a type of damascening. A metal plate of an alloy of zinc, tin lead and copper is used, where zinc forms the base. The design is drawn with a free hand and then engraved with a sharp chisel in varying depths as demanded by the design. Silver wires or pieces of sheets are embedded on these patterns by hammering.

Electro Plated Nickel Silver, E.P.N.S. is highly polished brass plated with Nickel and then with Silver of varying thickness and then polished again to give a very rich look of silver. The thickness of silver may vary from less than one micron (commercial), to one micron (discerning), to several microns. Electroplating plants are used for this purpose. Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, one of the prime centers for brassware, has E.P.N.S. items in myriad designs for different uses.

These come in different finishes, which include the shiny silver, dull (matt) silver and antique silver. The various items are then decorated with very fine etching and engraving bringing out beautiful and intricate designs.

The variety of items made in this process is innumerable. These include, candle stands, tea sets, plants, boxes, lamps, coasters, jugs, ashtrays, wall hangings, paper knives, wine coolers, ice buckets, beer mugs, goblets etc.

Silver filigree work is a style unique in itself. This work involves pure silver which is put through a wire drawing machine. In olden days, the silver was beaten on an anvil and elongated into long wire by passing it through a steel plate with apertures of 36 wire gauges. Two of the thinnest wires are wound around the 'charkha' after heating. It is then flattened again to get it as thin as the single wire originally was. It is then bent to give it different shapes.

A filigree article is thus a combination of different parts pieced together. The space within the frame is filled with the main ribs of the design which are usually, stems, leaves, creepers etc. Articles in plain silver are also made in the shape of boxes, trays, bowls, spoons etc.

Orissa, where it is popularly known as 'Tarkashi' specializes in jewelry. 'Karim Nagar design' is a very complicated design, reflecting great skill and refined art. The perfume containers are a speciality of the place. Plates, bowls, water-pots, and tumblers too are made in this process. These items are highly ornamented.

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