Under the spotlight: the art of block-printing.
As we turn off the main road, the harsh hubbub of the traffic is replaced by the sing-song sound of hammer and chisel in a street lined with cosy little block-carving workshops. We make a beeline for the one run by Mullah-Ji, a fourth generation master block-carver known throughout Jaipur for his work. Surrounded by apprentices, we find him carving our Persia Blue pattern into a rosewood block.
Block-printing is one of the oldest printing methods in existence. Despite the advent of technology, it remains a treasured craft practised in India using just a hammer, chisel and chunk of solid rosewood. Chisels vary in size and shape in order to get the desired motifs and the most detailed patterns can take up to ten days to carve.
To transfer the pattern from the carved block to the dhurrie, a special clay mixture is used. “The recipe is as old as the craft itself,” Harsh Kumar, our artisan block printer says, leading us to an alcove designed especially for the mixing of the clay. “Wheat, acacia gum, slaked lime and clay,” he says, pointing to the ingredients placed beside a stone tub. “My son steps in there and mixes it the same way they used to make wine.”
Harsh dips the block in the clay mixture and lays it down on the dhurrie. He moves down the fabric carefully, but surely, the block leaving its imprint as he goes. “The clay has an adhesive quality to it,” he explains. “Once dry, it sticks to the dhurrie and stays there. When the dhurrie is dyed, the clay pattern is the only part of the fabric that won’t be coloured. Once we remove the clay, that’s when you’ll see your pattern.”
Hand-printing is no easy feat, but any imperfections only add to the beauty of a finished piece, infusing it with its own character. Walking the length of the workshop table, gazing over the freshly printed fabric, where the sections have been joined is impossible to tell. “Thanks to God,” Harsh softly exclaims, putting his palms together in the gesture of Namaste. “I pray before I begin every piece. So that God will watch over me, and I won’t make a mistake.”
Take a closer look at our Persia Blue pouffe collection.