: Tree of Life’s Adventure in Kashmir!

Kashmiri handpainted boxes are one of our top items.
Last season we visited Srinagar in Kashmir, to check on the condition of workers there.
We were satisfied that they are treated fairly – we found the workplace to be healthy and tranquil.
And along the way, we also found MAGIC.
Behold – the home of Tree of Life’s legendary Kashmiri papier-mâché!
The dashing Parveez has long been our supplier of Kashmiri papier-mâché products.
His artisans train for five years to do this highly meticulous work.
Each colour is applied one at a time, in layers.
It’s a privilege to watch these artists at work.
They are swift and precise.
A box with painting as fine as this fetches a higher price:
We also visited a copper shop and saw some spectacular handcrafted samovars.
Each piece is full of personality!
When the weather got too hot, we headed to Gulmarg –
the Meadow of Flowers.
This famed hillstation is a ski resort in the winter.
It was probably one of the coolest places we had ever seen.
The landscape all around is rich and romantic.
We found Kashmir’s proverbial title, “the enchanted vale,” to be entirely true.

Back in Srinagar, we kept working.
Handpainting can adorn almost any product.
It was fun brainstorming new items to decorate with this exquisite traditional design.
In the evenings, we took sunset cruises on Dal Lake in the tiny boats known as shikaras.
It’s mostly locals who enjoy the lake.
Some use shikaras to tout their wares.
There are hundreds of houseboats on Dal Lake too.
Their interiors are astoundingly ornate.
The carved sandalwood is so fragrant!

Parveez introduced us to the glories of saffron tea.
We vowed to prepare it ourselves back here in Australia.
But somehow, it has never measured up to the Kashmiri original…
photography by Shirin Borthwick