The very beginning of a discovery trip
My first stop of this discovery trip was Bagru - a town at the outskirts of Jaipur, in Rajasthan - one of the textile hubs of India.
Since at least 400 years, Bagru has been home to the Chhipa clan.
My trip starts in Bagru - a town at the outskirts of Jaipur, in Rajasthan. One of the textile hubs of India, it is known for centuries for its natural dyeing, Syahi Begar printing, indigo dyeing and wooden hand block printing.
Since at least 400 years, Bagru has been home to the Chhipa clan. If combining two Nepal Bhasa words, chhi means "to dye" and pa means “to leave something to bask in sun”.
This etymological theory feels especially true as you walk through the vast communal drying fields that connect the Chhipa Mohalla (the village printers’ quarters).
The air here is redolent with the fragrance of drying fabric, the ground and the concrete walls are covered in oranges, blues, and pinks.
Everywhere you turn in Bagru there is a scene that will make you stop!
Very early in the morning, this was my "welcome" in Bagru: fields full of colourful fabrics sun-drying, everywhere! Not just simple fabrics, but beautiful ones with incredible prints on, and indigo dyed ones too.
The scenario is colourful. Everywhere I go, I have to stop to appreciate it.
I'm welcomed by Vijendra Chippa of "Bagru Textiles", who will show me around.
At "Bagru Textiles" at least sixteen families work regularly as master printers, dyers, block carvers, dhobiwalas (laundry people), and designers.
A portion of Bagru Textiles's profits support community initiatives for the entire Chhipa community.
Artisans put fabric to dye. The dyeing process can be repeated over and over until the desired colour is achieved.
Then, I meet one of the block-makers, who carves by hand wood blocks for printing. He shows me some of the most traditional wood blocks for printing in Bagru: like the three types of block used for different printing stages (top right photo), some very detailed ones and some from very ancient collections, passing from generation to generation!
I'm introduced to the printing tray, where the natural ink or mud is placed, and where the wood block is gonna absorve the colour.
At the printing studios, I get to see how the printing itself is made: on the top of long tables, where long fabrics lay down waiting for their prints.
Bagru is also known for its geometric prints. After this stage, the fabrics go to get dyed and some natural colours become different after oxidation - the yellow here (left photo) will become red!
I go and visit the Dabu technique section,
Dabu printing is a very slow and meticulous art form.
Firstly, it's needed the mud-resist paste made with black clay from ponds.
Wheat powder and Arabic Gum are then added, in order to improve adhesion of the print paste to the blocks and to the fabric.
And finally, lime water is included in the mix, to prevent the clay to crack at the printed portion, and to improve the adhesion of the print to the fabric.
The Dabu paste is placed onto the fabric with a carved wooden block, but other objects or even hands may be used, depending on the creativity and desired design effects.
Saw dust is then sprinkled manually on the wet Dabu print and left for a few hours for drying.
After, the fabric is dipped in a cold dye solution, usually indigo (the most common one) - in this case, it will result a white print effect against a blue background.
Back at the printing studios of "Bagru Textiles", to try to hand-blockprint by myself...
This seemed much easier than I thought...
And my Bagru scarf is ready!
(I feel ashamed to tell you how long it took me to have it done!...)
At the end of my visit at "Bagru Textiles" (where at least 16 families work regularly and which part of their profits support community initiatives for the entire Chhipa community), Vijendra Chippa shows me some of their finished products of natural colours.
I choose then very wisely my very first items of Mano Etna, in order to bring them to you!...
(Click on image to view/shop product)
Now, time to go back to my hostel at Jaipur, because tomorrow I'll depart towards Pushkar for more discoveries! (check my next blog posts).