Have you seen an achara? Probably so, if you have ever visited a block printing studio. It is that thick cotton fabric that underpins the printing table, laying beneath the piece that is being stamped. An achara provides extra padding to maintain uniformity during the printing process while also absorbing the residual dye that passes through the cloth.
When the chhipa printer removes the stamped cloth from the table, he reveals an achara now lightly covered with patterns — subtle variations of the various blocks and dyes recently used.
With repetitive designs printed over time, acharas gradually accumulate a variety of vague impressions that ultimately result in an abstraction of layered pattern. Motifs dance and overlap across the empty backdrop. This functional length of unbleached cloth is transformed into a work of art created by chance.
These lively patterns shown here are from the acharas in the AMHP’s Demonstration Area. For more information about the technique of making a printing table, read an earlier blog, The Humble Printing Table.
In the late 60s through mid-70s, Indian clothing captivated the West. Bagru bell bottoms, psychedelic kaftans, paisley-laden evening gowns — hippie chic spread far across the globe. For many it is a ‘trip down memory lane’ to see these exotic garments on show, so AMHP is dedicating a gallery to display a rotating selection from the Anokhi Collection.
Hand block printing was languishing by 1960 when young westerners started to arrive in Jaipur and, enamoured with Indian style, began experimenting with not only blocks and dyes, but also the silhouettes of traditional dress. Imagination reigned, and inspired by creative local women like Kitty Rae of Kin Fabrics and Lalita Mishra of Shilpi Handicrafts, these novice designers began to re-interpret this heritage craft.
Printed cloth was stitched into theatrical evening gowns, billowing peasant blouses, quilted boleros and more. Elaborate embellishments like tassels, beads and fringe heightened the glamour. Chhipas suddenly found themselves flooded with export orders, and Indian hand block printing flourished once again.
This fusion of traditional and contemporary style, supported by the Indian artisan’s skill and creative adaptability, resulted in a success story that lasted a decade and reinvigorated block printing for future generations. A wardrobe full of lavish clothing and accessories from this era, accompanied by related blocks and fabric swatches, can now be revisited at the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing.
THE ANOKHI MUSEUM OF HAND PRINTING IS WELCOMING VISITORS AGAIN!
Even during a pandemic we have been busy working behind the scenes. We have some gallery changes coming, anew bookwith an accompanying exhibition, plus a renewed focus on fashion of the hippie era.
Of course, in these unusual times , the well-being of our visitors and staff is our top priority. We have made some important changes to keep you safe during your visit.
For the time being we will not being booking large groups or offering private tours with any staff members. This is to ensure visitor numbers are limited and effective social distancing measures can be taken to keep everyone safe.
Signs will guide you on a one-way route through the building to minimise close encounters with other visitors. Please help us in our efforts by keeping a safe distance at all times.
Staff will be wearing face masks. We strongly recommend all visitors also wear a face covering while at the museum.
Hand sanitiser is available at the entrance to the building and in other key areas, and we follow an increased and thorough cleansing regime in the toilets.
A visit would not be complete without some retail therapy! The shop is open for browsing through an assortment of beautiful hand crafted items. To ensure a safe and enjoyable shopping experience, we are limiting the number of customers into the shop at any one time.
Relax and take in the sights and sounds of Amber village while sitting in the museum forecourt. Our open-air Drinks Kiosk presently offers a limited menu of bottled water, tea, coffee and lime & ginger cordial.
Please check our visitpage for information on our opening hours and how to find the museum. Changes in government guidelines may affect timings so we recommend you contact usbefore your visit to confirm we are open.
The Anokhi Museum is pleased to announce a new book : Farrukhabad – Art of the Block.
All you textile aficionados, have you tired of historical fiction, murder mysteries, and biographies? Are you looking for something different to add to your reading list while our world is slowly opening up? Are you ready to travel off the beaten trail?
Farrukhabad – Art of the Block might be just the book you have been looking for. Captivated by the chhipas stories and their elegant complex blocks, AMHP has been immersed in the prints and history of Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh, an historic town nearly forgotten in time. Giving a voice to our guides — the Khans, a renowned family of block carvers — and complimented by a variety of tangential interviews, we let the artisans ‘speak’ to provide insight with their own words, and what a riveting tale they tell.
Linked to the trade routes along the Ganges north of Lucknow, Farrukhabad has a rollicking history beginning in 1714 when a Bangash Afghan warlord, Mohammed Khan, captured these lush plains for Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. Khan founded a thriving town that weathered invading tribes, British traders, World Wars and even American missionaries to become one of the most significant centres of hand printed cloth.
The block carvers reigned. They created remarkable Persian-styled paisleys and flowering borders crammed with entwined vines and delicate tiny buds — elements of the famed Flowering Tree. These complex designs, dense with elaborate flowers, earned Farrukhabad well-deserved accolades for several hundred years. Although facing challenges today, the town retains a significant place within the context of block printing.
So take a peek into this fascinating world. Numerous samples of prints and photographs illustrate the sheer beauty of the elaborate prints. An exhibition will follow. Contact usto order this book and other publications by AMHP.
Have you ever seen a block printing table being made? Probably not. It’s a fairly infrequent process. So when Anokhi block printers, Shariff and Vasik, decided to repair one, we followed them for a rare peek.
First, some printing table history. Traditionally the printer or chhipa stamped cloth at a pathiya, a small rectangular table sitting low to the ground and made of stone or wood. Several layers of coarse cotton fabric covered the top for a durable padded surface. Seated on the floor, the chhipa slowly guided the length of fabric across the table while constantly smoothing any creases.
Today pathiyas have largely been replaced by longer, wider and higher tables, enabling a standing artisan to meet modern-day production needs for increased speed and volume.
According to Shariff and Vasik, padding needs annual refreshing to retain the ‘springiness’. Without a certain amount of bounce, printing quality is sacrificed and, worse, the uneven surface can damage the printer’s hands.
Then there is the question of sand. Over time, in a desert region like Rajasthan, sand pockets accumulate inside the table padding creating a lumpy surface recognisable by dark or light patchiness across the printed cloth. The uppermost layer of padding or achara requires regular washing followed by drying, perhaps in a field or along a dusty road where sand again accumulates. Adequate shaking out is necessary before re-application. Even then, dust constantly settles on the table, working its way through the layers creating a never-ending saga.
Can most printers re-pad a table? With a knowing grin, Shariff answered, ‘The older ones like us know how to and the younger ones learn with time, but none of them actually want to do the work. They would happily do it if they were paid extra! Some of them say that pulling and fixing the coarse jute cloth hurts their hands for printing.’
Here’s how it’s done…
Properly created, these padded tables are a ‘secret ingredient’ needed for block printing handmade cloth.
Suraj Narain Titanwala is a 4th generation block printer, learning the trade from his father Govind Narain. His wife and son are also experienced artisans. Together they have created a dynamic family business firmly rooted in local heritage.
The Titanwalas’ success story is one of serendipity as well as commitment and hard graft. It really took off in the early 80s! Faith and son were busy selling block printed cloth at Jaipur’s hathwara, a weekly Saturday market where printers from neighbouring villages usually came to sell their textiles. They had travelled from their home town Bagru, a small historical printing settlement 30 km or so from Jaipur.
Picked up by locals to make traditional clothing items, the Titanwalas’ printed bundles were spotted by Hiroko Iwatate, a passionate textile collector from Japan. Hiroko loved the striking patterns and rich naturally-dyed cloth, and bought every piece they had carried to the market that day.
Since that chance first meeting inside the old city, Hiroko has helped Suraj Narain and his family forge long-term working relationships with local textile enterprises, as well as extend invitations to Japan to demonstrate his skills. Suraj Narayan dogged perseverance to preserving the craft has certainly paid off; the family workshop has since become an attraction for textile enthusiasts, designers, collectors and academics in search of authentic Bagru cloth.
Now a successful print business, the Titanwala legacy is carefully preserved within the walls of a small museum. The recently-opened Titanwala Museum, nestled inside a quiet neighbourhood of Bagru, explores the art of block printing and showcases the unique collection of Suraj Narayan and his family. Exhibits display ancestral blocks and fabrics as well as a selection of tools and utensils associated with the craft. It’s a perfect way to share their expertise in the field of natural dye printing.
The museum was built in the grounds of the family home and workshop, and offers a unique experience to visitors; live demonstrations of natural dye preparations and an opportunity to watch and print alongside skilled artisans are just a short walk away. A small shop is filled with freshly printed fabrics and furnishings that reflect the family’s craft heritage.
On January 20-21 AMHP hosted a 2 day event to study jajam and to introduce and learn from the masters who practised this craft. Participants included textile donors and enthusiasts, faculty from the Institute of Craft & Design (Jaipur) and Banasthali University (Tonk) along with college students and plenty of local children. Most importantly, members of the diverse Rajasthani printing community including block carvers from Jaipur also attended the gathering. Few still print jajam yet most still work in the field.
After an initial tour of the exhibition, the first morning was spent discussing jajam – past, present & future. Seated in the museum courtyard upon floor spreads recently commissioned for the event, artisans reminisced and chatted about a variety of issues while staff recorded their thoughts. A panel discussion covered a number of topics beginning with the customs surrounding the use of jajam to reasons for their decline and lack of relevance in modern India. Questions included: Is there a future for jajam? Can they be adapted for a modern audience? What is the commitment to preserving traditions while seeking creative alternatives? How is it possible to find an audience and spread-the-word? The craftspeople also wondered if the next generation should or could go to design school to further block printing? Of course, all of these topics and more are relevant to the survival of any type of heritage craft.
The second day was action-packed. There was conversation and chai but the museum was also full of laughter as guests of all ages mingled, tried their hand at playing chaupad while little ones mastered the art of designing and printing jajam motifs.
Looking back, perhaps most striking was witnessing the craftsmen’s smile as their work was appreciated, discussed and displayed with their name. Providing a venue for the artisans was an important goal in founding the museum, so their enthusiasm was truly inspirational. The gathering felt like a family reunion since quite a few knew each other and had alot in common to share. For the elders it had the touch of a ‘swan-song’. All in all, it was a lovely weekend to celebrate jajam, craftspeople and, of course, the art of the block!
NOW, don’t miss the exhibition! There’s still plenty of time… Rediscovering Jajam is on all year until 31 December 2018 except for 15 May – 15 July when AMHP closes its door to the public for the Summer.
Have you heard of jajam? These large patterned floor spreads coloured in traditional shades of red and black were once commonly found in Rajasthan. Here at the museum, we were familiar with these block printed textiles, however, until recently did not appreciate their cultural significance. A new exhibition at AMHP, Rediscovering Jajam , highlights a wide-ranging collection of new and vintage jajam, along with a selection of contemporary block printed clothing and home furnishings, the work of Kriti Gupta and Avinash Maurya and their fledgling company Wabisabi Project.
This dynamic husband and wife team epitomizes how heritage crafts can flourish in a modern world where factory made goods often compete with the handmade. Traveling around Rajasthan’s small towns and villages, Kriti and Avinash took the time to listen and learn from the elder craftsmen who had made jajam for generations. Sadly, such printers are disappearing and with them years of acquired knowledge is slowly fading away. Culturally sensitive and compassionate, this couple inherently understood the importance of collaboration for the future vibrancy of heritage crafts, a principal that underlies the museum’s own ethic.
While exploring the region, these stunning indigenous floor spreads caught their eye. In earlier days jajam offered a place for family and friends to congregate during the multitude of Indian festivals and religious ceremonies. Warriors on horseback and creatures like tigers, elephants and scorpions sometimes surround the border to protect the group from perceived dangers. And frequently, jajam contained a chaupad, a game board in the centre where people gathered for hours of entertainment tossing the dice and racing to the finish line, reminiscent of a round of Ludo.
Visit AMHP and explore this exhibition on your next visit to Jaipur. Don’t forget to ask for the fun participatory guide, or perhaps play a game of chaupad assisted by the AMHP staff. For the truly dedicated, Wabisabi Project offers workshops at their block printing operation based in Bagru. (AMHP blog: 9/17)
Kudos to Wabisabi Project for their visionary dedication to hand block printing!
From everyday use to important life ceremonies, rediscovering jajam – the people’s textile explores the cultural significance of jajam floor spreads. A contemporary collection by Wabisabi Project also looks at ways to adapt these classic motifs and patterns for future use.
On at the Anokhi Museum of Hand printing until December 2018.
Print demonstrations and short workshops with our onsite craftsmen offer an opportunity to experiment with traditional jajam blocks. Jajam tours, quizzes and games are also available on request. Visit our museum shop to find an assortment of fun products inspired by the jajam exhibition.
Jaipur’s palaces, forts and bazaars are on everyone’s must-do list when visiting this heritage-rich city but, if you’re a textile enthusiast or generally just looking to do something different that’s also off the beaten track, the WabisabiNatural Dye Workshop in nearby Bagru offers a unique opportunity .
WNDW is the initiative of young entrepreneurs Kriti and Avinash, who founded The Wabisabi Project in early 2017. The project takes its name from a traditional Japanese sentiment that finds beauty in the imperfections and impermanence of the natural world; embracing simplicity, subtlety and the hand-made. It’s a perfect name for a venture that’s all about hand-crafted textiles made with the colours of nature!
To set up their print and dye workshop, Kriti and Avinash worked alongside local master craftsmen and, under their guidance, have been experimenting with age-old dye recipes, traditional techniques and block patterns. Their dye repertoire is growing, with a plan “to go completely natural” by re-introducing dyes such as sappanwood, lac, natural indigo and turmeric. Join them at their Bagru workshop for a truly immersive experience!
For more details contact Kriti and Avinash on email@example.com or phone +91-99831 17978. Information can also be found on the workshop website wabisabiproject.com