Achara Artistry

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.

The block printer, Shariff, stamps a dense purple border around the edge of a cotton voile sarong. Dye seeps into the resulting in a blurry reconfiguration of patterns.

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.

Although regularly washed, an achara remains permanently patterned with delicate tracings, slightly blurred motifs and ‘dots’ of dye.

 

 A freshly stamped dark blue rekh outline adds a new layer over earlier impressions that have faded after multiple washes.

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.

 

A buti motif print run – a dense ‘forest’  appears where the printer has repeatedly stamped beyond the edge of the printed cloth. 

 

A seasoned achara becomes as rich and layered as a painting.

 

Text: Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing

Photos: Anokhi Archives

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