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When in Jaipur…

When in Rome (Jaipur), do as the Romans (Chippas) do…

Hello all! BYI 10.0 wrapped up our last days in Jaipur AND our tour de block printing force last weekend. On Saturday evening, after our final AIIS Hindi class and some shopping, we headed to Jawahar Kala Kendra, a local art exhibition space, for our first block printing workshop with Studio Bagru. Some printed bandanas, some printed tote bags, some repurposed stained pants, but everyone enjoyed exploring the hand-carved blocks and letting our creative (or in some cases, perfectionist) juices flow. We also had the chance to chat with Studio Bagru founder Jeremy about the current state of block printing in Rajasthan and abroad, and the modern consumer. After that, we decided three hours of block printing was enough for us. JUST KIDDING! (Do you know BYI 10.0 at all??). The next morning we drove an hour outside of Jaipur to Bagru, the capital of block printing. We met up with Vijendra-ji, head of Bagru Textiles and a chippa (member of the caste of professional block printers), who led us on a tour of the village. We met wood-block carvers, mud-resist printers who use mud to create layers of dyed patterns on fabrics using indigo and various color dyes, fabric dyers and washers, and block printers. Together, they continue traditional practices, use largely natural dyes, and create original block printed designs for global and local markets, preserving an art many thought would go extinct. In the past decade, many of the families in Bagru (nearly 300 participating in the industry) have built business models in which they are more fairly compensated for their work, and the where the uniqueness and authenticity of their product is recognized by their buyers and, hopefully, the consumer. After our tour, we were lucky enough to block print again, this time using Vijendra-ji’s designs on scarves of our own. Whether it was in observing the journey of a piece of fabric through an intense process, dissecting the chemical compounds of the dyes, discovering that indigo dye is stored and fed like a sourdough starter (this was definitely me) or actually block printing ourselves, our last days in Jaipur were deeply memorable, or as Tom would put it, extremely successful. Hopefully, our block printing journey doesn’t end here. Enjoy the below photos of Bagru, the textile process, and the members of BYI 10.0 hard at work!