Summer Tasks

For those of you keeping an eye on the Anokhi Museum blog, many apologies for the delay in posting any news for quite some time. We’ve been extremely busy!

The museum’s 10th season came to a close on May 15th, marked by the onset of soaring temperatures and characteristic aandhi or loo winds. We have had great footfall since the season began in mid-July’14 – 6705 visitors to be precise, our highest figure so far.

We are occasionally asked why the museum closes.  Visitor numbers have always dropped right off in the hot weather (just a few hardy enthusiasts after April) ,  so it’s the perfect time to undertake any restoration work, make general repairs and carry out a thorough cleaning of the galleries.

After several monsoon lashings, the museum’s exterior walls are in need of attention. Repairs to the façade and boundary wall will soon begin, with skilled artisans using age-old practices to carry out the work and to also re-touch the decorative paintwork within some of the  galleries.

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archivehavelirestoration2

These archive photographs were taken during the 1989 -92 restoration of the museum building. To achieve the distinctive terracotta hue of the walls, the artisan mixes a traditional recipe that includes lime stone and red clay. A white linear detail is carefully painted on top. Retouching the extant paint work is a lengthy process that will take much of the closed period to complete.

archive haveli restoration1

Also during this time, a local lohar metalworker will create a lattice structure to place over the second floor courtyard – where our onsite block carver, Mujeeb bhai, spends his day carefully chipping away to make beautiful wooden blocks. The building currently has a similar stylish canopy above the central courtyard and printing demonstration gallery. When the new cover is in place, “Mujeeb’s veranda” will finally be monkey – and pigeon –  proof, and he’ll no longer have to worry about the local primate population muscling in for free block carving lessons!!!

museum canopy

Delhi-based architect Stephane Paumier devised the original design in 2004 for the museum opening, which has been adapted by local architect,  Gaurav Bhatnagar, to place over the front court-yard.

Other work to complete over the next two months is an extension to the museum shop. One small, unused room adjoining the shop will generate the space needed for a trial cubicle, as well as give a bit more display space to expand the variety of regional textiles on offer. At present, the shop showcases traditional – predominantly natural dye – cloth from Bagru, Ajrakhpur, Balotra, Bagh, Sanganer and Jahota. In the new season, we look forward to adding block prints from other regions in Rajasthan.

Next month we welcome a second block printer (and a new table) to the demonstration gallery, to work alongside our existing printer, Chacha bhai. While fulfilling small production orders for the museum shop, once the museum re-opens in mid-July, both craftsmen will be on hand to demonstrate their skills and interact with visitors in this very popular area of the museum.

To any brave travellers still moving around in the Rajasthani sun and hoping to call in at the museum, please knock on the door – it is now closed and the exhibits will soon be hidden beneath dust-covers, but the building itself is impressive and worthy of a not-so-quick look – entry free! To all of you who have visited AMHP during this season (and before!) , a big thankyou . Please come again!

A Legend Passes

In  May of 2014, AMHP was saddened to learn of the death of Abdul Rahman, the renowned razai quilt maker. Anokhi had worked with this talented artisan for 34 years and many of our customers have enjoyed wrapping themselves in his soft, downy quilts. Not long before his passing several of us were fortunate to meet with him and his family to tour his ’factory’.

Arriving at Abdul’s home just off Amber Road on the outskirts of the old city was an experience itself. His comfortable, rambling farm-like house was a lively scene – cows mooing, pigs oinking and the extended family assembled during the school holidays, each seemingly with a special task to do along with the young ones playing. His elderly mother, now retired, proudly oversaw a sewing circle of mothers and daughters, gossiping and giggling together as they stitched the lovely quilts. Abdul’s warm and welcoming personality seemed to illuminate the household.

Abdul Rahman4

Abdul Rahman5
At home with family

Born in Jaipur in 1952, Abdul grew up in a city where children played in the streets and people travelled by bicycles or tongas. Perhaps a touch of this cosy environment now graced his own home.  By age 12 his grandmother began teaching the young boy his trade, a generational craft harking back to their local village about 75 kilometres from Jaipur. Abdul recalled making these popular quilts in rough, thick inexpensive khadi cotton that protected the locals and villagers against the plummeting night time temperatures of a Rajasthan winter. The finer materials of satin and silk appealed to wealthier patrons.

In the workshop a simple type of cotton gin whirred, spitting out the fluffed cotton. The invention of carding machines 75 years ago displaced old-style pinnins, the original hand tools, and revolutionised the craft with increased speed and efficiency. As Abdul commented: The cotton is good desi Indian stuff but nothing exceptional…The trick lies in the carding.  We card all the dross to get the  finest fibres.

Abdul Rahman1
Proudly showing off his family’s skills in a light cotton razai

Abdul noted that there were still 12 to 15 families making razais in Jaipur, most catering to volume production, with predominantly block printed blankets destined for local bazaars and upscale boutiques. We have been doing this for years now. We earn enough to keep the home fires burning. It’s a hereditary skill. Our Mother still plies a deft needle!

Abdul Rahman 3

His family will continue this tradition, but sadly, Abdul will no longer supervise their activities. However, there is no doubt that his gentle spirit will be a guiding presence.

 

Text & Photographs: Suki Skidmore

 

 

The Neighbourhood Bash

Once again all of Amber gathered at the Anokhi Museum for an afternoon of festivities with  hosts, Museum Supervisors, Jitendra Chaturvedi and Pavan Saini, supported by staff members, Jagdish Prasad Meena, Rampal Meena and craftsmen ‘Cha-Cha’  and Mujeeb Bhai.

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Every September we look forward to this fun party – a festive gathering of our neighbours and an opportunity to update the town about upcoming events. There is always plenty of chai and samosas to go around, plus tours of the museum are available throughout the afternoon. Everyone enjoys printing with the assistance of our on-site craftsman, and attendees returned home with their own hand printed handkerchief, bag or scarf.

We are really proud of this event. When the museum opened in 2005 the people of Amber were unsure of us; in fact, we were ALL a bit wary of one another.  A museum tucked amongst the homes in Amber was a strange concept. Our challenge was to explain ourselves, introducing the museum as an educational venue for them too. In short, we needed to become user friendly to the people next door.

Not surprisingly, our local staff was invaluable and ‘spread-the-word’. By our first Samosa Party four years ago, almost every child had visited us on a school trip, so parents were curious to peek inside the once derelict haveli mansion

nighbourhood photo3

On September 14th  the party had a different feel. The original 40 attendees now numbered  almost five hundred!! Today we can count on our neighbours to not only direct tourists here, but to also drop by occasionally for a  visit. In turn, our friends want us to provide a welcoming educational experience for their families. It works for everyone!  The Samosa Party  was a true celebration – a bit more than a party. It was a happy occasion to gather in the spirit of cultural exchange, learning and friendship!

neighbourhood photo4

Text: Suki Skidmore

Photographs: Abdul Salaam

 

New Museum in Jaipur

 

ShreeSanjaySharmaMuseum
An educational outing for AMHP staff! Photo: Suki Skidmore

 

 

AMHP is delighted to welcome a ‘new’ museum into the neighbourhood! Well, maybe not new – The Shree Sanjay Sharma Museum has actually relocated from a family home inside the Old City to a new building on Amber Road, right across from Jal Mahal, the water folly in Man Sagar Lake. This summer members of the AMHP staff took a field trip to look at the re-installed collection.

This building itself is lovely. Inspired by traditional Mughal architecture it contains spacious galleries that allow the family-owned collection to be shown in regal splendour. Displays range from pottery and textiles to paintings and miniatures with lots of ephemera in between. Works are well labelled. Perhaps most intriguing are the 1,250 antique manuscripts written on a variety of materials, including bark, ivory and palm leaves. The 300 topics address such themes as astrology, architecture, elephant and horse therapy, how to play musical instruments, and more. In the process of being documented, these delicate works are carefully tucked away in metal cupboards. We noted that tobacco leaves were used for conservation methods much as AMHP utilises dried leaves from the neem tree to protect textiles.

The large scale paintings are spectacular, but of course, we were interested in the textile displays. There were some wonderful block printed pieces from Sanganer, particularly a remarkable checkerboard game cloth with that bright white sun-bleached fabric so identifiable with the town. Dyed in natural red and black, 4 large cabbage roses decorate each corner. The museum has a large holding of textiles with over 200 pieces from Sanganer, so the AMHP staff is eagerly waiting for the 2nd floor galleries to open!

 

The Shree Sanjay Sharma Museum is well worth a visit on your next trip to Jaipur. Please tell them that AMHP sent you.   Have fun!

Text: Suki Skidmore

Hot off the Press!!!

Blockopedia_Cover

Finally, our long-awaited book,  Blockopedia – A Beginner’s Guide, has arrived!

This is a project that we have been working on over the course of a few years (tucked in between a multitude of other projects) so it is good to at long last see it in print.

Blockopedia is a fully revised and expanded version of the museum’s inaugural exhibition guide, Print Progress, now discontinued. This concise new version is designed to not only introduce enthusiasts to the art of block printing, but also provide practitioners and professionals alike with  tidbits of new information. Among other things, we revisit block printing centres while adding new regions that we hope to explore in the future. Also included is an expanded section on natural dyes along with technical processes. Of course, as in past, the book is full of lush photographs and beautiful fabric swatches that highlight the text.

You will find our new publication in the museum shop and Anokhi shops across India. We hope that you enjoy reading this compendium as much as we did writing it and that it will become a well-thumbed edition to your budding textile library.

With regards ~

AMHP staff

Text: Suki Skidmore

 

DETAILS OF AMHP PUBLICATIONS ARE AVAILABLE

ON THE ANOKHI MUSEUM WEBSITE

http://www.anokhi.com

 

To purchase please contact

sunali@anokhi.net

Bagh printing

 

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Bagh  comprises a selection of unique bedcovers from the small village of Bagh in Madhya Pradesh. Well suited to modern interpretations, this hard-to-find traditional cloth reveals an unusually bold, clear style of printing. A display of contemporary scarves by  WomenWeave  compliments the exhibit and looks to the future.

 

AMHP Re-Opens!

 

photo: Suki Skidmore
photo: Suki Skidmore

On July 15th the museum opened its doors for its 9th year. Time does fly!  So much has happened in that 9 years – so much that our visitors don’t know about, but that we would like to share. To address this issue, AMHP is inaugurating a blogsite to keep our followers updated on block printing and other relevant topics.  Of course, behind the scenes research continues and exhibition ideas are always percolating, but there are little gems of  scholarly information, personal stories and textile finds that cannot be immediately interpreted or displayed.

We would like to share the ‘inside’ stories and the ‘printing gossip’ rather than have it sit on a shelf gathering dust, and things DO get dusty in this desert state of Rajasthan!  We hope that our blog will be enlightening wether you are planning a trip to the museum or are an armchair aficionado.

Although the museum has been closed since mid-May, behind its large carved doors there has been a flurry of activity preparing for opening day. From monkey proofing to case cleaning, the maintenance demands of a 16th c. haveli mansion is staggering. Our dedicated and hard working staff makes everything possible.

 

Anokhi Museum Entrance
photo: David Dunning

Before closing, we wanted to mention that a new exhibition featuring the unique block printed cloth of Bagh, Madhya Pradesh is scheduled to open in mid-August. To our knowledge, this is the first museum display dedicated to this hard-to-find cloth. Take a peek at the sample below.

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We are also patiently (sort of) waiting for the publication of Blockopedia ~ A Beginner’s Guide, the 5th book in our series on hand printing. Blockopedia is a revised and greatly expanded version of our first publication for the inaugural exhibition. Hopefully, it will be a handy guide for experts and beginners alike.

We hope you enjoy the AMHP blogsite, and welcome any related information or anecdotes.

Regards ~

The AMHP Staff

Text: Suki Skidmore