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.
Text : Rachel Bracken-Singh
Photos : AMHP Archives