GUEST STORIES: Block Printing on Holiday
One of the most memorable holiday trips. A 10-day trip that focused on printing patterns on fabric using traditional printing technique i.e. hand-block printing, and turning them into cushion covers. The prints were inspired by travels through Middle East, the love for Islamic motifs, patterns and and basic colors. 4 patterns: 1) ‘Hamsa’ the palm (protection from the evil eye), 2) ‘Umayyad’ for geometric print, 3) ‘Isfahan’ for vessel cutouts found in the Ali Qapu music room in Iran and 4) ‘Maroc’ for the elegant blue white porcelain plate from Morocco. At the brilliant suggestion of Savista, wooden blocks were carved ahead of time which enabled me to print the cushions using the custom blocks.
Like a true amateur, I underestimated the complexity of the printing process at the beginning. As I delved deeper, anxiety and mild stress began building up. How do you achieve perfection in an entirely hand-made/ nature-driven traditional printing process? Achieving that precise turquoise color, the desired shade of sky blue that depends on hand-dye, was impossible. The delay in the delivery of custom wooden block. A couple of cloudy days that disabled almost the entire printing process that relies on sunlight and dry air. Those moments/ days were rather agonising but they quickly gave way to understanding and appreciation of a traditional craft and a cottage industry challenged by modern-day factories.
What’s more, spending most of our time in the workshop (more like small factory, not the corporate workshop as we understand) alongside the printers and its owners, we began to bond with them… at the beginning over cookies, muruku snacks, chai, Fuji instax sessions, candies. Then we started tasting their on-site cooked lunch, learning to wear the saris that they were making, visiting their home and mingling with the women and children at home and taking rides on their bikes as we shuttled between the workshop and the stitcher’s workshop. Ellie even remembered the way to the workshop from our retreat 30 mins away, located in the middle of a village/ farm with no street signs, after only 4 days! We missed the workshop!
It is an experience and memory that would stay for a long long time, made possible by gracious hosts Bhanwar and Radhika’s help. This trip will inspire me to make more activity-based holidays.