Friday, January 15, 2010

Made in India

Part of my excitement about traveling to India (apart from an attending a fabulous wedding), was going to the region where most of the country's hand block printing is done.

Put simply, block printing is performed using carved wooden blocks of various sizes. Some fabric is printed using just one colour, one design. Others are made up of a series of intricate patterns, which don't look like a complete design unless you use each block with different coloured dyes. I visited the wonderful Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing which gives you the history of block printing in India and the progression of the art as well as how it was traditionally done and how that processed is being modernised for today's market - but I'll talk more about that later.

So the area where traditionally a lot of printing (both fabric and paper) is done is just outside of the city Jaipur, in a place called Sanganer.

lesson number 3:
A rickshaw or taxi driver will only take you to places where they get commission for bringing you...and needless to say, it's never stuff you're interested in looking at, let alone buying. Next time I'm arranging my own 'fixer' - someone who makes sure you get to see what you want to see.

Anyway, one of the first places we were taken to seemed great, they asked if we wanted to see how block printing is done in their studio? Of course! We went weaving down a dusty side street, into, what looked like someone's back yard, to end up in a dark, dusty old room where clearly, the only block printing that gets done is to 'wow' the tourists.

So the guy there showed us how things are done (see below) and then we were wooshed off to the 'showroom' where you get pressured to buy whatever you pick up - not quite what I was expecting - and most of what we saw, is seen everywhere they take you...and always grossly inflated as there is the rickshaw or taxi driver commission to pay! I'll do an entire posting on the places I did find that did create and sell amazing, contemporary and gorgeous products, so stay tuned!

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