Meet This Paper Artist From Kashmir

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Tuba Nasiem. I am 29 years old. I was born and bought up in Srinagar. I own a studio by the name The Paper City which is located at Friends Colony Barzulla. I am into paper art more specifically Quilling and Papercutting. Initially, I started this as a hobby later in 2017 I started a page on Instagram through which I take orders to personalize this art in frames.

How did this idea of quilling and paper cutting come to your mind?

I had no idea that something like quilling even existed back in 2015. Later in the same year, I discovered quilling through Instagram. It was an artwork of Sena Runa, it was so wonderful that it became my inspiration for the paperwork. Then I started watching some tutorials on Youtube. Luckily the first piece I made was pretty decent for a beginner. So as an amateur, it motivated me to create more and I started doing it as a hobby. After doing this for almost a year, on and off, as a hobby, I eventually discovered Papercutting on some Instagram page and I started getting tools and stuff for it like detailed knives, printed sheets and, a cutting mat. Back in those days, it was tough to get those tools here in Kashmir even a detailed knife or simple craft embellishments. It is still difficult to find them here. We have limited stock and designs available. A simple printed sheet and even the frames were not readily available. So I had to get them from outside to satisfy the requirements of my work. Now, most of the basic tools are easily available. Now I get the framing done from here but a majority of my craft supplies come from outside.

You recently tried your hands on layered and 3D art, share with us more about it?

Paper art can be done with different styles and techniques. One of them is layering. There are different mediums to do 3D art. As I work with paper mostly I create 3D art pieces with paper. So basically it is a bit different than normal paper cutting as different layers, shapes, and colors with varying depths are used to give a 3D look. I have been doing portraits and landscapes in this form. It is a bit complex than normal cutting. I initially used to do it in normal flat cutouts fashion but with time I realized I like doing the layered one more. So most of my pieces have now a 3D look.

Craftwork is integral to Kashmir, but youth is less interested in this work, what according to you are the reasons?

I guess we have failed to admire and promote the local handicrafts. The demand for these products has decreased and that makes it obvious for the youth to look for alternate income-generating jobs. We need to admire real craftsmanship and encourage people to produce and pass their skills and knowledge to the next generation. I think elders have to play an important role in generating awareness in their children about this field because the less we discuss assets integral to us, the more unfamiliar they start becoming from generation to generation. Besides children themselves have to show up their enthusiasm for things that are a part of our representation.

What are the problems that you are facing in this field?

I have been blessed with a very supportive family. So I never had any issues setting up a studio. I love doing it that is why I do it full time now.

However availability of materials herein Kashmir may be categorized as one major problem which creates trouble for me. Also since I run this online so whenever the internet is snapped it does create a huge problem.

How can we keep any kind of craftwork alive in Kashmir?

Art does not need an audience unless you are planning to sell it. So endorsement, awareness and most importantly reinventing the craft and keeping up with the times we live in. Youth has to be familiarized with the level of hard work and dedication that all types of craft require, through lectures, seminars, family discussions about our culture, embedding art and craft in our curriculums, hold competitions around the same, and overall developing an inclination towards this field. Peer groups can play an important role by talking, discussing, and creating awareness regarding its importance because we all know peer influence plays an essential and determining role in our lives, and since many of our youths as it has been noticed are getting inclined towards our tradition and cultural assets, so they can play their vital role through direct or indirect influences.

Lastly, innovation balanced with artistry can help its survival.

Interview by Durdanah Masoodi

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