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Bidri Beckons with Lai Designs

IMG_4144Lai Designs, an online jewellery store, helmed by California-based Puja Bhargava Kamath launches Bidri X MCM – where the Bidri (a fine art of inlaying silver wire and sheet on an oxidized zinc and copper alloy) jewellery designs are inspired by the aesthetics of Mid Century Modern and skillfully handcrafted using the ancient craft of Bidri.

What makes this art so topical is the special variety of soil used in the oxidisation process which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar fort. This soil is said to be the reason this craft can’t be practised anywhere else, except for Bidar. While no specific reason can be attributed to this, few artisans feel that this soil has been away from the sunlight and rain for years and therefore it has high oxidising properties. Just one of the stories that make this craft seem almost magical!

puja (1)Speaking about her love for this craft, Puja says, “Bidri is a unique craft- it was born in Persia, made its way to India, traveled across the Deccan to finally downing its anchor at Bidar, a small town in Northern Karnataka (after which it came to be named), some 400 years ago. Of course, one of the main reason for the visual appeal of Bidri has a stunning contrast of colours- the glossy silver inlay being set off dramatically against the matt black.”

Bidri is the epitome of elegance and an understated opulence. The delicate wire inlay work on a solid matt black background results is an overall aesthetic that is delicate yet formidable. Its beauty is timeless and enduring. Holding a piece of Bidriware is like holding a piece of history and an unbroken chain of tradition in your hand.

Lai’s Limited Edition collection of Bidri accessories comprises of 29 uniquely crafted necklaces, pendants, earrings, cuffs and rings, which though contemporary, exudes an agelessness. Each and every piece in the collection is handcrafted in Bidar, Karnataka by master craftsmen using time honoured techniques handed down over centuries. These Bidri components are then set in silver jewellery by expert artisans in the Jaipur workshop with extreme attention to detail at every stage through a delicate and time-consuming process.

Bidri work

Apart from being visually charming, Bidri work is also enduring as it does not rust and can last and look the same for centuries. It is one of the many reasons we love it so!

The unexpected teaming of a craft so rooted in tradition with a design aesthetic that is anything but will excite the imagination of the individualists, the story collectors, those doing-their-own-thing and the cultural mavens.

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Crafting of a Bidri article (inlaying silver wire/sheet onto an oxidised zinc and copper alloy base) involves four main steps:


(1) mould making,

(2) melting the alloy and casting the article [the rough surface of a freshly cast piece is smoothened by filing with files, scrapers and sand papers. Then a superficial layer of black is applied on the surface of the article by rubbing it with a solution of copper sulphate. This makes it easier for the artist to draw the design on it, which is easily visible on the black surface],

(3) engraving and inlaying the design [the engraving tool, a kalam or metal chisel of various shapes and points, is used to engrave the designs which are drawn free hand. Traditionally, various Mughal inspired motifs such as flowers (known as Asharfi-ki-booti), leaves (vine creepers), geometric designs, etc. were commonly done on the items. Inlaying work is done by a silver sheet or wire which are deftly and skillfully placed in the engraved groves. The inlaid design is then buffed to smooth the surface] and finally

(4) oxidising [after final filing and/or buffing, the bidriware is now ready for the final blackening process. A unique variety of soil which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar fort is used. The soil is mixed with ammonium chloride and water to produce a paste which is then rubbed onto a heated bidri surface. The paste selectively darkens the body while it has no effect on the silver inlay. The final piece is rubbed with coconut oil to brighten the black surface.

Text by Aarti Kapur Singh

Images by Lai Designs


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