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CHAPTER I . HARD MATERIALS

Metal Work

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Copper bells' sounds remind us of being close to the earth, the villages and our roots...

ONCE UPON A TIME...

In earlier times, before the division of India and Pakistan, there used to be constant movement of people between these regions, and the Lohar community (copper Bell Makers), brought their craft from Sindh (now Pakistan) to the region of Kutch (Gujarat, India).

They used to sell their items to the local pastoral communities, like the Maldharis Bharvads and Rabaris, with who they created a close linkage. The herdsman described the sound their cattle would recognize and the Bell Makers set that tone out on their copper!

The bells prices were very high once they were a long-lasting warranty for the pastoralists. But, if for some reason, the sound was damaged then the Lohar artisan would fix it for free.

Bells original names are Chota Paila, Paila Dingla, Do Dingla depending on their sizes, and they are the local currency equivalents.

There are 13 sizes of bells and they are customized for different animals: a goat would have a small bell with a high-pitched sound, while a cow would have a larger one with a deeper note. Even in the same size, the bells are customized with different sounds, or notes, to differentiate different cattles' owners. There can be up to five or six different notes for each bell!

A SUSTAINABLE CRAFT

Bell Making is a wonderfully sustainable craft as the main metal used is mainly tin and iron waste; the natural resources are mud, wood of Prosophis Julifera and water; and the only use of energy is in the furnace for preparing them. Even the waste generated is minuscule: small metal scrap and burnt mud.

Unlike other crafts, the copper Bells Work still sustains a local economy, once these items are still used by communities in the region.

This craft is also gaining popularity as decorative items, not only because they have a beautiful sound, but also because their "music" remind us of being close to the earth, the villages and our roots.

THE PROCESS

Copper bells are a product of collective work and skill of a family. The whole process takes a lot of expertise and very careful and sensitive use of sound as well as touch.

First men shape each bell, they hammer rectangular strips of recycled metal into a cylindrical hollow and weld a dome-like metal crown to the bell’s cylindrical body.  Then, they bend and attach a metal strip to the crown so the bell can be hung. 

After, women start their work of dipping the bell in a solution of earth and water, covering the wet bell with a mixture of powdered brass and copper, wrapping it in a pancake of local clay and cotton, and placing it in a kiln to bake.

After the "bell-bake", the cotton is peeled away and any excess clay is rubbed off.  Each bell is buffed and polished to accentuate its unique metallic sheen. A ringer, made of a dense wood called sheesham, is attached inside the bell, converting the hollow metal object into a music maker.

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A bell is shaped from scrap metal.

The bell is covered in mud and powdered copper.

The bell is baked.

Bells are worn by the cattle.

Video by Rajivdarocker

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Video: "Bells of Kutch"

METAL WORK

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GOOD TO KNOW 

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sustainable materials

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