From Down Under, to Heaven on Earth
Nuno felting, an Australian craft, has found a new home in the hands of Farooq Khan,a Kashmiri artisan
Kashmiri artisan, Farooq Khan, has blended Kashmiri traditional art with Australia's nuno felting technique and created unique products found nowhere in the world. Khan is said to be the only nuno felting artisan in India and has been able to unite the two crafts together to give a new life to the traditional crafts of Kashmir. Nuno felting is a technique that bonds loose fibre, usually sheep's wool, into sheer fabric like silk.
Nuno felting is a technique developed in Australia a few decades ago, and now a Kashmiri artisan has developed it further to make the traditional Kashmiri Namda rugs, and silk scarves. It took Khan months to learn the craft and later make unique products now sold across the world.
''I started learning this technique four years ago, and I have been selling these products for the last two years. I was helped by an organisation called Connect to Kashmir, which showed me how nuno felting was done. Then I tried mixing the techniques for making a Kashmiri Namda rug. I failed the first time, tried the second time, and failed again. I knew I would be able to do it but I needed time to perfect it. So after finishing my daily work, I used to sit and work on nuno felting. And finally, after two years I was able to make jackets, silk scarves, Namdas, and shawls which are extremely light,'' said Khan.
Artisans like Farooq, are not only incorporating the new designs and techniques into the traditional arts and crafts of Kashmir but also making sure that the transition handicrafts live on.
Khan's family has been making Namda crafts for decades, and it was his own curiosity that led to so many new designs and techniques being incorporated into the traditional Kashmir's craftform. He says that he doesn't sell these products at high prices as he loves making them. ''I have been making Namda since my childhood and learned the craft from my Dad and uncle. I was working in Kargil and saw a Namda there which led to a little curiosity about making something new.
"It didn't take me much time to learn, but I failed a lot of times before making it a success. I am extremely happy that I am making new things. I don't even sell these products at very expensive rates, as making them gives me the most happiness." said Khan
Khan has been working on these new additions and techniques with a private craft organisation. He, however, is not happy with the government as he claims it does not provide any support to further boost this craft. Khan has to travel outside Kashmir valley to get the raw material for making these products. He says that he went to the government officials many times asking them to make the raw material available to the artisans in the valley. But no one has done anything about it.
''The main issue is the wool. They have great quality wool and yarn in a country like Nepal, but we don't have anything available in Kashmir. The government is not helping us at all. I wanted colored wool for making these products and went to the government many times to make it available to the artisans in the valley. But they have not done it.
"We have to go to Ludhiana to get this and that too has to be bought in bulk even when making samples. It is a very expensive deal for us, and I had requested the government to make it available so that we could buy from them, '' said Khan.