On our first morning in Jaipur, we travelled 16km south to visit the town of Sanganer which is famous for its hand-made paper and block printing artisans.

‘Printing developed between the 16th and 17th century following the constant wars between the Mughals and Marathas which resulted in migration of several craftsmen from Gujarat to Rajasthan. Most of them settled in Sanganer which ultimately became its haven and this art has been thriving ever since.’ ebnw

Before our block printing workshop, which I will write about in my next post, we took the time to visit the district filled with the artisans and craftsmen who actually created the intricate blocks used to create the beautiful printed fabrics.

Traditionally using rosewood for the block, the carvers sit in the front of their workshops, with the rollup doors open, letting in the light and fresh air. The process involves tracing the pattern onto the block and then carefully carving the pattern into the top of the block using a variety of small different types of chisels. Intricate and delicate, the process demands a huge amount of skill and patience. Once the patterns are complete, the larger pieces of wood are carefully cut into individual blocks for printing. A flat surface is essential for printing so to prevent warping, the blocks are soaked in mustard oil for a few days.

The district is a hive of activity with various people going about their daily business. Upstairs, fabric printing can be heard in a workshop. Kids play in the street and moped drivers make their way through the streets, peeping people out of their way. An old lady goes to get some shopping, another complains to a relative upstairs about her inability to hang drying sheets properly and a girl buys sweets before school. Whilst obviously not wealthy, the district is full of active bustling and productive creative people, showing their skills in creating these blocks that allow the wonderful printing that the area is known for to continue.

One aspect of India that specifically struck me were the vibrant colours – textiles, paints, spices, flowers and vegetables, they were wherever you looked. Whether palaces slums or anything in-between, there’s is always something to catch the eye.

Text and Images © Jonathan Dredge

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