Block Printing in Bagru
Hear the words 'Indian textiles' and the first image that springs to mind is mostly likely to be of a length fabric covered with beautiful, block-printed patterns. It’s thought that printing designs onto fabric actually originated in China some 4,500 years ago, but it was the Indians who made the art their own. It is a tradition that continues today, particularly in the village of Bagru.
This small village, 30km from Jaipur, has been associated with the art of block printing for 350 years. Almost everyone who lives here is involved in the industry in some way, dyeing, printing, washing or drying and the entire process is still almost entirely dependent on nature.
There are two styles of traditional Bagru block-printing – one features dark, generally geometric, patterns on a cream background, the other light-coloured motifs on a dark ground. This second style is known as dabu, named after the mixture of local black clay, wheat powder, guar gum and lime water the printers use to apply pattern to the fabric. As the dabu does not absorb dye, these areas remain uncoloured when the fabric is dyed.
Changes in taste mean that customers are now demanding a wide range of colours, so artisans are beginning to use eco-friendly chemicals, but traditional, natural colours still dominate – blues prepared from indigo, reds from alum, madder and acacia arabica, blacks from waste iron.
Several dips are required before a fabric is properly coloured (the first of which is in a substance made from myrobalan fruit to help the colour bind to the fabric), and the cloth is laid out to dry between each one. In the hot dry months, the village is covered in a colourful rainbow of fabrics drying in the sun.
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