Moradabad is a principal cluster for art brassware in India. Brass, appreciated for its golden lustre, is sandcast, following which the various stages of production are handled by specialized craftsmen. The dhaliya or metal caster casts the products, while the sheet metal personnel and engravers have their own karkhanas (workshops). The entire process of creating a piece along with ornamentation typically takes between four to six weeks.
“Kalamkari, is Urdu for pen work and engraving, is achieved with skilful thumps of the thapi (mallet) on fine, pointed chisels. Craftsmen like us engrave from memory, except when a new design is specifically commissioned. There are two types of engraving - a shallow one called naqqashi or sada kalam, and a deeper engraving called khudai or sia kalam. In khudai, the designs are marori (sophisticated) and the chased depressions are packed in with coloured lac.”
The design glows in golden ornamentation against the luminous jewel-coloured lac. Naqqashi is also occasionally done on a tinned surface. Traditional styles are mostly floral Arabesque designs. However, the embellishment is limited to ornamental, and dowry objects since domestic utensils are battered with mud, or ash after use. A customary artefact that needs distinctive mention is the paan daan (small brass box used for storing betel leaves), created by casting heavy-gauge sheet metal, either copper or brass. The dimensions of the paan daan and the adornment reflect the social standing of a bride’s household.