Rediscovering jajam

 

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.

Traditional syahi-begar jajam by female printer Devi Sahay Chhipa, wife of Ramswaroop Chhipa,  Jairampura, c. 1997

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.

Reproduction of a multi-coloured jajam style once freuently printed in Jahota. Purushottam Chhipa, Jahota, 2017.

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.

Detail of traditional jajam. Stacked borders containing horseback riders and soldiers  surround bold patashi design . Krishna Gopal Chhipa, Shreenagar , c.1990
Chaupad game board  in the centre of a jajam. Wabisabi Project, 2017

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)

Complex diamond pattern with central chaupad by  Bagru master printer  Seduram Chhipa , 2017

Kudos to Wabisabi Project for their visionary dedication to hand block printing!

Text: Suki Skidmore

Photos : AMHP archives

 

 

Jajam exhibition

 

 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Wabisabi Workshops

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 Wabisabi Natural 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 wabisabiprojects@gmail.com or  phone +91-99831 17978. Information can also be found on the workshop website wabisabiproject.com

 

Block printed samples dry in the hot Rajasthani sun in nearby fields.
Experimenting at a traditional pathiya table with guidance from a local master printer.
During Monsoon, for a short while, the countryside around the work shed transforms into a verdant wilderness.

 

 

Summer Stamp

Each year here in Jaipur, during school Summer holidays, Anokhi (the textile business) holds a Summer camp for children between the ages of 5 and 13. The camp takes place in the crèche  – an initiative started almost 17 years ago to support Anokhi’s young working mums – at the main Anokhi work site. For 5 weeks the crèche is abuzz as children of all ages are kept active and engaged with craft activities, indoor & outdoor games, reading, singing and dance. This year, block printing was added to the timetable!

With plenty of student-workshop experience, AMHP staff went along to help set things up in the Anokhi printing shed, conveniently situated around the corner from the crèche. The children had a great time and took the creative task of stamping their own handkerchief designs very seriously. Block printers, Shariff & Vasik, clearly enjoyed the whole experience too; and were more than happy to spend the afternoon tutoring such attentive youngsters in place of their usual work.

 

Shariff demonstrates how to steady the block with his little finger – a trick of the trade – then stamp it with the side of his other hand.
A chance to practice with the blocks; the sample fabric soon fills up with fun experiments.
An accidental work of art! Scattered animals and overlapping flower  impressions make a delightfully whimsical ‘painting’.
With handkerchief squares pinned to the table, Vasik gives a speedy but important lesson on how to print borders around corners.
Carefully trying out the newly-acquired knowledge!
Little blocks for little hands…… and a lot of con-centration from Mohit to get it just right!
A pair of expert helping hands assures the block sits right in the middle. It’s not as simple as it might look!
One final, satisfying “thap” and Vrinda’s piece is ready!

Back at the crèche at the end of the day, the children proudly show of their accomplishments. They had a great deal of fun trying to master some of the basics of block printing. It turned out to be the highlight of everyone’s Summer!


No sooner had the museum closed than it was back open again!

 

For two months, behind closed doors, there has been a flurry of activity in the gallery spaces which began with small renovations throughout the building – among other things, the mini-auditorium got a new ceiling and various areas received a fresh lick of paint  (see AMHP is Not Just About the Prints blog) –  followed by a thorough cleaning and the re-installation of gallery displays.

While that was going on, the demonstration printers caught up with print orders for the museum shop and the resident block carver kept himself busy making small repairs to archive blocks as well as enjoying his time carving out one or two exquisite new designs.

The shop is now brimming with new stock. Even the  small café in the forecourt (or Drinks Kiosk, as we like to call it) has been spruced up with a striking selection of traditional Bagru textiles.

Yesterday the museum re-opened. We hope you, your family and friends will have an opportunity to visit during the season – July 16th 2017 to May 14th 2018. New exhibitions are in the pipeline and we are lining up some fun student activities…….no age barred!.  If Jaipur is just that bit too far to come to, we hope you’ll continue to enjoy our posts as we highlight events and tell stories about AMHP and the colourful world of hand printing. We look forward to your visit one day!!

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A small piece of advice: The demonstrations are very popular and we do try to ensure that the artisans are present daily other than during official holidays. However, to avoid disappointment we recommend a quick call beforehand to double-check. Contact details are on the website and  also mentioned below.

 

When the museum closes over the Summer, Mujeeb moves his small carving workshop to the cooler ground floor courtyard.  With his clutch of tools and small work table he can set up shop just about anywhere he likes.
Taking a break from more complex work, he makes a small stock of flower ‘posies’ for the new season. With a bit of a grin, he’ll give them away to visitors who come to watch him at work.

Mujeeb likes to make an impression!! In this case, on his arm!

 

Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing

Chanwar Palkiwalon ki Haveli (Anokhi Haveli), Kheri Gate, AMBER, Jaipur

For inquiries: Tel.- +91-0141-2530226 / 2531267 or +91 – 0141 3987100

Tuesday – Saturday : 10:30am – 5:00pm

Sunday : 11:00am – 4:30pm

www.anokhi.com

 

IMPORTANT

There will be no block carving or printing demonstrations between:

1:00pm – 2:30pm Fridays

1:30pm – 2:00pm on other days.

Closed Mondays and major national & local holidays.

 

 

Closed for the Summer!

Today the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing officially closes its doors for the Summer – although the hot weather has actually been with us for some time. While it may seem like a long break,  the museum staff need two full months to carry out their annual cleaning and maintenance tasks (of which there are many in a 400+ year old building!!).

Still, every year the footfall grows and we are always amazed at how many intrepid travelers brave the heat to pay us a visit even in the middle of May!  While we mention the closure date on our website and in several other places, for anyone who misses that information and turns up at the museum, we do let them come in.

Until the dust sheets go over the display cases, the staff will happily let anyone look around the exhibitions. Even when everything is eventually covered or removed from its case, our block printers and carver continue to work behind closed doors and a stroll around the stunning, tranquil interior of the building is every bit worth the visit!  In short, while the museum is closed, it won’t be a wasted trip for whoever lands up! Just knock on the door!

AMHP will re-open, as usual, in mid-July once the hottest part of the Summer is (hopefully) out the way and monsoon is underway.

In the meantime, have a very good Summer!

Meet Salim

 

It’s been a while since our last post; we’ve been very busy but plan to write more often!! To get back into things we’re revisiting the theme of Meet The Staff,  where we introduce a member of the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing (AMHP) team. Last time we chatted to Jitendra and Pavan, the museum supervisors.  This time the spotlight is on one of the museum’s two block printers….

Meet Salim (we asked for his full name and  apparently that’s it)!  Salim took up his position as museum block printer in July 2015 and joins our charismatic printer Iqbal in the demonstration area (we’ll be writing about Iqbal another time!). Chatty and sociable, Salim seems to be enjoying his dual role as printer and demonstrator.  We joined him in his work space to find out what he thinks of life in a museum and to learn a little bit more about him.

Salim’s hometown is Farrukhabad, a renowned block printing and carving town in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He grew up in a neighbourhood surrounded by craftworkers. Salim’s father was also a printer but he points out that he didn’t learn the craft at home. “I picked things up on the job from other printers, just being around them all, watching and practicing. Everyone in that area was printing. There were plenty of others my age. We all learned together. “

After a brief stint in Delhi, Salim moved to Sanganer – another historic printing town, just outside Jaipur. Work was scarce in Farrukhabad but Sanganer’s block printing industry was flourishing.  Now 59 years old, he has been living and printing there for almost 40 years until his recent work move to AMHP, Amber  – on the opposite side of Jaipur. His two brothers are in the same line of work not far away. His son is a block printer too – an encouraging sign that the next generation has also engaged with the craft!

Salim at his printing table in the demonstration area.

The museum must be a real change, much calmer than the hustle and bustle of Sanganer? ” I’m older now, ” he reflects, “and this work is more relaxed compared to work in a printing unit. I demonstrate to visitors or work on a small order, but it’s unhurried. I like new people coming to see me work and I feel happy when some of the visitors call me Guru! I am very happy here.” Often associated with a spiritual guide, guru is also synonymous with expert or authority. After four decades of stamping cloth, Salim is undoubtedly a skilled craftsman and, proud of his heritage. He is happy to put on a bit of a show and share his expertise with the many enthusiastic onlookers who pass through. He is very pleased to see ‘his craft’ in this kind of setting, in a museum dedicated to block printing. “It makes me proud that people are interested in what I do for a living.”

Testing a new block while waiting for museum visitors.

Salim has a nice routine – demonstrations throughout the morning, printing orders in the afternoon. He’ll stay doing this until he retires. And then? He’ll probably return to Farrukhabad. He still has plenty of family there and returns several times a year for festivals and special family gatherings.

Visitors have come! Salim cleans a block and gets ready to print.

During his chai breaks he can be spotted scurrying down the corridor to have a chat with the museum’s equally affable block carver, Mujeeb Khan. Mujeeb is also from Farrukhabad and about the same age. The two have much in common and plenty to chat about. But that’s another story!