2017

Making Silver Filigree 

Dastkari Haat Samiti

A look at the process of fashioning silver wires into filigree objects

Silver Filigree: Fine Creations, Jewellery shop in the market, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Cuttack is a bustling large town in Odisha, famous for its silver filigree work, known locally as Chandi Tarkashi. It translates into 'silver wire work'. The craft is believed to have been introduced in Odisha when the Mughals established their rule in India. The process is highly elaborate, using precision machines and skilled handwork, apart from the ingenuity and creativity of these traditional artisans.
Silver Filigree: Design spec sheet, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The first step of the process involves drawing a sketch of the design by hand.

Silver Filigree: Silver Brick, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Preparing silver wires from the silver brick
Raw silver in the form of a silver brick is procured from silver shops in the market place. 
Silver Filigree: Transforming the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The silver brick is melted and drawn into wires of different thicknesses using this boring machine.

Silver Filigree: Transforming the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silver is melted and passed through the heavy portion of the machine, converting into flat wires.

Silver Filigree: Wires, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The thickness of the wires is determined by the design. Silver wires of various thicknesses are used in the production of any one piece.

Silver Filigree: Twisting silver wire, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silversmiths burn the thicker silver wires to convert them into finer wires.

Silver Filigree: Casting the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The silver wire that is ultimately produced can be extremely fine.

Silver Filigree: Tools used, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Tools used for silver filigree work
Silver Filigree: Tools used, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tool used for silver filigree work.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tool used to twist the silver wires.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The thin silver wire is carefully twisted using the tool.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The needle used for twisting the silver wires.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Twisted silver wires ready for filigree work.

Silver Filigree: Casting the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Die used to convert flat silver pieces into various circular shapes.

Silver Filigree: Casting the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Die used to convert silver into small dotted shapes for finer designs.

Silver Filigree: Casting the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Various forms of dies used by the silversmiths to give shape to silver wires.

Silver Filigree: Casting the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Samples of shapes created using dies.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Transforming the wires into a work of art
Silver Filigree: workshop, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The workshops where all the silversmiths sit are generally located behind the showrooms.

They sit in groups of four or five, facilitating the complete process from twisting the silver wires to fashioning the product to cleaning the finished piece.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A team of silversmiths in their workshop.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silversmiths cutting the silver sheets according to the design.

A silversmith curls and cuts off little pieces of fine silver wire, to use in his design.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A thicker wire is used to make the frame or farma.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The fine silver wire is twisted and moulded into fine and elaborate designs. These are fitted exactly into the frame.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

All the individual pieces are assembled to make the final product.

An artisan works on creating an elaborate design.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Finally, heat is used to attach all the parts assembled together.

Fusing the joints of silver filigree work.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silversmith in his workshop, fusing the joints of silver filigree work.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Cleaning & Polishing the filigree work
Once the objects are ready, they are ready to be washed, cleaned and polished. 
Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Silver filigree is first immersed in a solution of dilute acid for cleaning.

Cleaning work of a finished silver piece in progress. After immersing it in diluted acid, it is put in a polishing solution and using a brush and a brass tipped tool, is polished to perfect shine.

Silver Filigree: Shining the silver, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A tool like this is used to make the silver filigree piece shine.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Brushes used for cleaning the silver filigree products.

Silver Filigree: Finally tuned process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Workshops and workers for the wire-making process are different from the ones where the filigree work is done.

Silver Filigree: In process, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Those who do not have workshops work from their homes. The work of a craftsman does not stop during the rains.

Silver Filigree: Fine Creations, Syed Ruksar Ali, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Ruksar Ali and community filigree artists
Ground Facilitator: Ankit Kumar
Documentary Video: Ankit Kumar
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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