Artwork: Shantiniketan

Perhaps, the oldest form of human expression, be it through painting on walls or on skin (leather) or on parchments, hand paintings were the go to mediums for ancient cultures and civilizations to express what they were undergoing at the time.

Around the 1940s, the rich craft of hand painting on embossed leather was first introduced in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. The craftsmen of the villages were trained at the Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, which was founded by Shri Rabindranath Tagore (Author of the Indian National Anthem). The Embossed patterns and Batik work on leather practiced here are distinctively different from the usual leather crafts found elsewhere.

The art work is created by touch dyeing vegetable tanned leather. The leather used has the quality of permanently retaining the embossed imprint of motifs or batiks. A cotton pad or a glass, which has a smooth surface, is used to make the grains of the leather shine.

Along with traditional motifs, more abstract designs such as geometrics and floral designs have become popular. The highlight of this kind of hand painting is that it combines hand art with embossing and etching which makes these designs three dimensional in nature, thereby adding depth and natural shades to the colors.