Meet the Artisans
Moradabad, which sits 160 km east of Delhi, was born during the Mughal era under Akbar’s reign. But the city really flourished in the early 19th century, as the brass market grew.
The Brits helped by sending brass plates, cups, and statues abroad, making Moradabad’s artisans sought after and highly revered in India. The attention attracted artisans from Lucknow, Agra, and other nearby cities.
By the mid 19th century, Moradabad had become the center of India’s brassware -- a thriving cottage industry where art and commerce fused well together.
India’s affection for metal-based arts dates back as far as 3000 BC, however. Over the centuries, all kinds of techniques have been deployed to shape the metal: beating it, casting it using natural materials, and pounding it with dies.
Today’s artisans are still using these simple, earthy techniques to produce their creations.
The Monroe collection, for instance, relies on sand casting -- a process where sand is used to mold the metal. In fact, more than 70 percent of all metal castings are created using sand.
The sand is combined with clay, and moistened with water to make it pliable. To make the mold, the sand has to be compacted around the pattern, creating a cavity. The pattern is then removed and the cavity is filled with molten metal. In this case, it would be brass, which is an alloy-- a mixture of zinc and copper. The metal is cooled and the sand mold is broken to reveal the finished design.
Brass, because it’s a mix of two metals, can vary in shades, from a silvery yellow to a reddish brown. It all depends on the ratio of copper to zinc. To give a polished nickel finish, the piece is dipped into an electrolyte solution consisting of nickel. This is commonly referred to in the trade as electroplating. The nickel ions in the liquid are attracted to the brass item. Once all the nickel ions deposit themselves onto the piece, a thick coating of nickel emerges. Hence, a a shiny nickel finish.
For the Marlow collection, it's a very similar sand casting technique but in aluminum.
In fact the artisans are skilled at mixing materials and coming up with new contemporary finishes. For example, mother of pearl, a beloved natural resource, is cut set in with steel and brass frames in the Marlow and Concha collections. The shells are cut and set in metal frames, or cut and pasted onto a base.
The entire process is done by hand in small studios throughout the city.
The result? A regal, hand-blown glass candleholder. Just like the Mughals would have liked it.
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