Making of a Bidri piece...... April 14 2016

The exquisiteness and the clean lines of Bidri belie the complicated and time consuming steps that go into its creation.

Crafting of a Bidri article (inlaying silver wire/sheet onto an oxidized zinc and copper alloy base) involves four main steps: (1) mould making, (2) melting the alloy and casting the article, (3) engraving and inlaying the design and finally (4) oxidizing.

We've prepared a photo documentation to explain these steps to the curious! :)

Mould making: A mix of soil, castor oil and resin is used to prepare a mould.

Melting the alloy and casting the article: In this mould, molten metal alloy of zinc and copper (in the ratio of 16:1) is poured.

Depending on the product design, different metal casted pieces may need to be welded together to form one single product.

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.

Engraving 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 the design: Inlaying work is done by silver sheet or wire which are deftly and skillfully placed in the engraved groves. The inlaid design is then buffed to smooth the surface.

Oxidizing: After final filing and/or buffing, the bidriware is now ready for the final blackening process. A special variety of soil which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar fort is used (it is said that this soil is very special. While no definite reason can be attributed to this- some artisans feel that the soil is away from the sunlight and rain for years and therefore it has great oxidizing properties). 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.


Also posted on our Facebook page on 14th April, 2016.