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One block at a time

About a year and a half ago, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to India for work. Usually work trips consist of airport-office-dinner-hotel and repeat loops, but this one was different. We got to go to the market, ride an Elephant and visit the Taj Mahal .

The food was incredible- in fact, I could easily get side tracked and write a whole post about Buffalo milk Paneer, but let's not go there right now. Instead, let's go to the block printing factory in Jaipur.

It is called Ratan. Our Hosts thought it would be an inspiring place to visit, and do a little bit of shopping. They were absolutely right. The modern takes on traditional block printing on cotton clothing and home textiles were charming and refreshing. However the highlight of the visit was exploring the actual print making facility.

We are used to hearing and accepting that things are hand made and yet it still came as a shock to see workers patiently printing meters and meters of fabric with a single wood cut: one impression for each part of the pattern and one color at a time.

One of the most beautiful results of Their endeavors is the accidental patterns that are created on the fabric that serves as a blotter under the one being printed. Layer upon layer of dye is absorbed to form a rich tapestry that captures all the colors and patterns used over a period of time.

Luckily, I was able to purchase one of these blotting cloths. Back home, we stretched it onto a wall and placed it behind a bed, using it as a starting point and design inspiration for a boys bedroom.

The visit was a powerful reminder of why I value hand made goods. There is a direct line between the decorative wall hanging and the lives of the men and women in that factory in Jaipur. In a world where we are increasingly connected without intimacy, this link is to be treasured.

The Website for Ratan is:

On it you will find a wide array of block printed products including apparel, stationary and home furnishings.

Below are a couple of great block printed products that you can get from Anek Designs, who will also make custom orders and ship directly from India:

this silk cushion cover has a simple paisley motif. Love the earthy tones. $30. Photo from Anek Desigsn. Click on image for listing.

Printed on raw grey silk, the simplicity of the motif contrasts with the opulence of the fabric. $30 Photo from Anek Designs. Click on image for listing

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