Block-printing is an ancient traditional craft unique to the Chhipa caste in Jaipur and surrounding areas. A design is drawn directly onto a slab of wood and the pattern etched out using a metal cutter. Some of Indian motifs are amazingly intricate, reflecting the level of skill involved. Lengths of fabric are rolled out and pinned on long trestle tables, ready for printing. The wood block is dipped into the colour tray, carefully applied to the fabric and then repeated. Each stroke requires extreme precision and requires a steady, practiced eye to achieve uniformity. The colours are applied one at a time.
Pink City’s handloom fabric is made by a women’s co-op in central India. The women are taught skills in hand-looming, accountancy and management which gives them financial independence in a very traditional, rural area. They weave using organic cotton which is dyed using local vegetables and plants.
Indigo dying is a lengthy process which is carried out by families on their indigo farms on the outskirts of the Pink City. They make a mud paste from their limestone soil and wood block print using this mud instead of pigments or dyes. When the mud is still wet, fine sawdust shavings are sprinkled over it, sealing the mud as it dries and hardens in the sun. The printed fabric is then dipped into a purpose built vat, filled with indigo dye and then left to dry in the sun. Once dry, the fabric is rinsed and then washed with soap. This process is repeated as many times as necessary to achieve the desired intensity of colour. It is a slow, organic process using natural elements and materials.