About four hours on road from the capital of India-New Delhilies the Northern State of spirituality - “Uttar Pradesh”. The populous region with over 200 million inhabitants is abundant of temples, ghats, shrines, mosques and monasteries. Sun shines every morning with the chime of temple bells and every dawn falls with the sound of Azaan from the mosque.

Indian Craftsman at Work

Ruled by the Mughals for over two centuries, UP has a flourishing array of age-old arts and crafts behind its rich history. The extravagant taste and appreciation of the art and crafts by the Nawabs has furthermore advanced the craftsmanship of the state. From Chikankari of Lucknow and Brocadeof Varanasi to Glassworkof Ferozabad, the region is full of handmade, handloom andhandcrafted treasures of the past, prevalent even in the present day.

On the banks of the river Ramganga in Uttar Pradesh lies a small city of art haven known world over for its brass work- Moradabad. Popularly known as the "brass city" or "peetalnagri" of the country. The industrial city and export hub accounts for more than 40% of handicraft exports from India to numerous countries like USA, Britain, Germany, UAE and Canada.

Evidence of usage of brass - a metallic alloy of copper and zinc can be found in India since ancient times. It is said to be first produced in the country way back in First Century BC and eventually came to be utilized in making sculptures, idols, tools etc. Generations of families in Moradabad are devoted towards the craft of hand carving this ancient alloy and have been working on "peetalkinaqashi" for centuries now. The brassware industry in the region flourished enormously during the early 19th century with about 40,000 artisans involved in the making of products for home ware, jewelry, trophies and sculptures.

In the glittering lanes of the city market, PeetalMandi, you can find brass in any shape, size or form. The city is home to a cluster of craftsmen, whose hands create magic in the form of trays, plates, lamps, sculptures and much more.Each of these items have been created with utmost precision and have gone through processes of casting, molding, welding, etching, carving, engraving and finishing undertaken by these artisans who have inherited the craft from their forefathers.

The process begins with the technique of casting to transform the molten metal into desired shapes with the help of a mold. The product then moves to the hands of Naqash or engraver who then engraves intricate designs and patterns, earlier traced on the objects. The ultimate stage involves finishing through different methods and techniques according to the design of the product.

Brass Metal Heating for Finishing
Brass Product Treated with Solution
Brass Bowl Painting
Enameling of Brassware Items

Usually, the articles are lightly heated and treated with solutions to achieve a black finish in contrast to the silver engraving. Other times, enameling or rang bharai is performed with the aid of lac to add color in the designs. (Seen here enameling being done using a heated enameling stick or batti)

These unique and intrinsic brassware items take several craft process and numerous hands to complete. Each article undergoes six to seven major processes in order to give them the form that we buy them in. A single piece of simple brass home ware can take up to 20 hands to complete, some of which require utmost precision and knowledge of the craft, like the hands of the Khar- the smith, Naqash - the engraver, Zarcod- the gilder, the enameller and Charakgar- the finisher.

These products are exported globally and have been accounting to crores of turnover until few years back. We, at Fanusta, have sourced a variety of brass and aluminum products from Moradabad, some of them being brass platters and bowls, aluminum and brass vases, decorative wall panels, brass boxes, brass glassware as well as MDF trays, etc.

The city that once was filled with light and glitter from its brass industry is gradually losing the shine of its traditional craft form. With the increasing cost of raw materials and fluctuating market demands, labor cost for artisans are being decreased to match the competitively priced market.

A cluster of Moradabad brass artists have been affected hugely because of the market inconsistency and are finding it difficult to make ends meet by taking forward this heritage art form. One of the most efficient artists working in the brassware industry, Mr. Mobin Hussain too has been affected with this shift in the market. With numerous number of state and national level awards wins, the craftsman knows his craft the best and nothing better.

Artist- Mr. Mobin Hussain, Moradabad

Mobin Hussain- Master Craftsman

Mobin Hussain, aged 78 is a master craftsman metal engraver, born and creating art in Moradabad.

He inherited the skills from his father late Altaaf Husain Ji and started at mere age of sixteen.Mobin is a third generation artisan who took over full time after the death of his father in 1964 while he was still pursuing his class 10th.

The Two time President Awardwinner (Year 2001 & 2006) and one time State Award winner (Year 1993) is known for his exquisite hand work on brass AKA peetalpenakashior uchaikakaam.

While taking inspirations from Taj Mahal, he innovates his own perceptions and style to create designs in his signature "khaditeerandazi" work or super taj work; marodiwork and budroomejaal work.

He received the National Award for master craftsmen from the President of India, for replicating with immense intricacy and finesse, the work of the monument of Taj Mahal over a suraai and a tray.

The skillful hand work of khadi teerandazior taj work takes almost two hours to finish one square-inch of area and is crafted utilizing two simple tools- badiKilli (iron nail) and a leather coated wooden bat.

His masterpiece, as he calls it, is a four feet tall brass suraai with taj work, which took one whole year to be completed. The Suraai which is called Aftaba by them, is completely made just with hands and adorned with extremely fine and intricate detailing called "marodi" work and filled with permanent color and polished to finish. The exquisite work on Taj Mahal is the inspiration of the design on this product, which he has created entirely on his own. It took Mobin one whole year to complete the 30 inch suraai, on which he worked 5 to 6 hours every day.

Mr. Hussain's brass masterpieces Suraai, plates, bowls and even wine bottle holders, have been an integral part of brands collection. In addition to being one of the only 20 shilp gurus of India, Mr. Mobin is a teacher of his art. He has carried out various workshops and personal mentoring classes on the craft and imparted his skills to more than 100 men and women.

Although, Mobin is a Master of his Craft and has been sharing his knowledge, technique and experience in the art form with the next generation, it has been rather difficult for himself too to carry this age-old legacy forward. Due to the lack of value for work done by hand, lower income for such an extensive detailed work and availability of cheaper machine-made options, the craftsmen all over the country are forced to choose more sustainable options of livelihood.

Fanusta through its "I am Fanusta" initiative has collaborated with the artist and his team of four and taken a step forward towards recognizing these craftsmen on a global platform in order to bring back our cultural heritage and its work of hand back in fashion. With innovation in terms of product design and utility, new collections are being developed keeping in mind the trends in the market and the customer buying pattern. The initiative aims to not just to bring back dignity to the art and crafts of India but also to make it a source of feasible income to keep it alive.

Initially, products from Moradabad that had already been created by the artist with their existing knowledge of design and trends, were sourced. The second step involved providing them with utilitarian and decorative design formulated through research by the design studio according to consumer and market needs, raw material was financed and fair wages were set forth on mutual agreement. The aim is to keep moving forward and create a continuous demand for products in the market.

As a result of the initiative, the brand has created utilitarian decor pieces with a joint effort of Fanusta design team and Moradabad craftsmen. A brass engraved card holder with contemporary aesthetics for today’s professional needs and a minimalistic brass water vessel which has been supplied for various restaurant projects in India as well as Iran, are two important products as a part of the collaboration. The brand is committed towards working with the artists for a long term and to create opportunities as well as customer demands for the dying crafts.