Profile of: Bagru Textiles, The Indelible Art of Indian Block Printing, India
Words & photos by Justin Lancy
Written for The Kindcraft
Bagru Textiles Company is a manufacturer of block printed and natural dyed fabrics based on the 400+ year old tradition of the Chhipa clan. The expert knowledge of the company’s founder, Vijendra Chhipa, stems from five generations of dyeing and printing experience within his family. The meaning of his clan’s name derives either from a Gujarati word meaning “to print” or from combining two Nepal Bhasa words: ‘chhi’ (“to dye”) and ‘pa’ (“to leave something to bask in sun”).
The preparation of a wooden block print is time-consuming. It often requires at least 4 to 5 blocks to print different parts of a pattern, starting from background forms and progressing to lines before completing it with a filling. Various professions are involved in the manufacturing process of a fabric’s pattern: A designer sketches the motif and the Master Printer decides the number of blocks and sequence of printed layers. The block carver then draws the motif onto wood carefully selected to be suited to the design’s texture and shape. Using the wooden blocks, the printer dips the block into the dye tray and presses it onto the cloth. Every print is made by hand and visually aligned by the printer. Traditional Bagru prints use dark color on a cream or dyed background.
Another style called Dabu is a mud resist-technique. The resulting cloth’s color is the other way around – bright prints on a dark-dyed background. For the dyeing process, the Chhipa use ingredients like indigo, alum, madder, acacia arabica, jiggery, and waste iron. Since these dyes mostly consist of natural ingredients, villagers can reuse the production water to irrigate crops in times of little rain.
Since the formation of Bagru Textiles, the company has widened its product range and, over the same period, Indian block printing has become a global fashion trend. At least sixteen local families from the Rajasthani villages are now collectively working on orders for international brands such as Block Shop, Beastly Threads, Molly Mahon, Penny Sage, and Rekh & Datta. This growth benefits the Chhipa community: The company reinvests a portion of profits into the community and customers like Block Shop have developed their own initiatives to support the manufacturing families and the village.
View the full article on The Kindcraft.