Behind the scenes

The tapping of tiny tools into blocks of mango and rosewood.

The intense concentration of artisans with years of experience or their apprentices looking on with interest.

Intricate designs traced onto to whitewashed surfaces. Planned and beautiful.

That’s how a block print fabric starts, with the block. A piece of art in its own right

Choose your block
It starts with tracing
And then the carving

If there is more than one colour in the design being carved then numerous blocks will be made. These will be carved separately using the same tracing to ensure they will line up when the printing is done.

For Yogipod designs the Fretwork design uses two blocks to get the two tone look of the design.

Once all of the tracing has been planned the blocks are handed over to the most experienced artisans in the cluster for the carving. Using different size tools and a hammer or metal rods the design is painstakingly carved into the block so that only the areas that are to be printed are left. The level of detail achieved is incredible. If you own a Yogipod item in the filigree flower design just have a look at how delicate that is and imagine it carved into wood!

Getting that perfect thump of a block

Moving away from the tapping of tiny tools and towards the rhythmic thump of the printing brings a whole new set of skills.

Each block is inked up in on of these little trolleys and then lined up with an expert eye to the previous print. Difficult enough when it is just a one colour print but once two colours become involved it’s really really tricky!

It’s just as hard as it looks, trust me!
Lining up those corners beautifully
The printing table under cloths dry in the sun

Once the printing is done it’s time to be washed to remove excess dye and and to help fix the print to the fabric. This is done in huge baths of water ti give as much movement to the fabric as possible. Many of the dyes used in block printing develop gradually through the washing and drying stage so this is often where you begin to see the true colours develop too

Bolts of fabric going through the washing process
Hung out in the sun to dry

All the fabrics are dried outside in the Jaipur sunshine, meaning the printing is very weather dependent!

The cluster of artisans I work with incorporates all of these stages of printing. All of them are family run operations and often these families have done this work for generations.

By working with a cluster organisation these small businesses can choose the work they want to do rather than moving to work in the larger block printing factories. This keeps the skills and crafts within the villages and helps to keep local villages thriving

Meeting some of the artisans in Jaipur in January 2020

I hope you enjoyed this little behind the scenes of the fabric printing. If you have any questions please pop them in the comments below!

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