In the Chippa Mohalla (printer’s quarter) in Bagru, Rajasthan, close to the colorful city of Jaipur in western India, groups of artisans are engrossed in a craft that is nearly three centuries old. Working with traditional natural dyes and carved wooden blocks, they create block-prints on fabrics using a style vocabulary borrowed from nature, including butis (floral motifs), bel (creepers) and jaal (floral net pattern).
Bagru printing is one of India’s traditional block-printing techniques, predominantly carried out by the Chhipa community that migrated from Jaipur to this region, close to the Sanjaria river. The river provided them with water and chikni mitti (Fuller’s earth) that are important ingredients in the textile printing process. For years these prints catered to the local community of agriculturists, traders and craftsmen, with their distinct sartorial codes and unique prints, becoming markers of the occupation and community.
Further along to the west, another block-printing community awaits the results of their work to shine through on fabric. Ajrakh printing from the Kutch region in Gujarat, is a test of the artist’s patience, with as many as sixteen different steps. This perhaps explains the name of the craft, since ‘Ajrakh’ is said to take it’s name from the hindi words ‘Aaj Rakh’, meaning ‘leave it today’, signifying the patience required to execute this elaborate and extensively detailed process. The fluid narrative print of Ajrakh is eye candy for every textile lover. Inspired by the trigonometric symmetry and floral patterns in Mughal architecture, this form of block-printing was part of traditional attire for both men and women of the Sindh region.
Both block-printing crafts, based in the desert regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat, depend on the local water for their craft to shine through, with the resulting colors reflecting the unique methods and motifs of the respective regions.
Working with artisans from Ajrakhpur and Bagru, Jaypore, an online brand based in Delhi, India, is engaged in conceptualising apparel collections in contemporary silhouettes. From dresses, jackets to pants and palazzos, among others, their range is styled for the woman of today, who prefers signature, one-of-a-kind designs over mass produced fare.
Created two years ago in a bid to provide a platform for under-exposed handcrafted designs from India, Jaypore is now charting a new journey for these crafts, by making them more accessible, sharing their stories and by presenting them in a contemporary, stylish avatar.
by Manika Dhama
This post was originally published in HAND/EYE Magazine.
Jaypore (www.jaypore.com) is an online brand dedicated to creating a unique interpretation of age-old block printing crafts. Traveling across India, they curate unique and exclusive collections that represent India’s finest craft-based designs. They present collections online by partnering with artisanal communities, textile designers, independent artists to showcase a new, contemporary design language that comes from India and belongs everywhere on the globe.