Our next adventure into the art hand-crafted textiles takes us to the little town of Bagru, just outside Jaipur. We learned the process of mud-resist indigo dyeing from Rajkanwar and Rachna Singh, a mother and daughter duo who are passionate about keeping the art of block printing alive in modern times. They welcomed us into their family-run factory and explained how they support the local community by making sustainable products employing hand-made techniques and centuries-old methods. They supply locally in India as well as collaborating with international designers. The ‘language of the hand’ – a phrase I heard used to describe the art of block printing – is all important to the Singh family. They hope to energise block printing and keep it economically sustainable in their region by reinterpreting traditional crafts and drawing inspiration from contemporary trends throughout the world.
continue reading to find out how the mud-resist indigo dyeing technique works
So if you’re using mud-resist, you’re going to need some mud. But not just any old mud. It’s a fine clay mud mixed with wheat flour, gum arabic from local trees and lime, all blended together into a ultra-smooth paste by foot, no less. I asked the mud-mixer how often he swapped legs in the mixing process. He said after every batch his other leg got a chance. He must have the soften heels in all Bagru. A deluxe pedicure and quads workout all in one morning!
So this wonderfully smooth mud is used with the carved wooden printing blocks and applied to fabric, just as one would print with ink. After the design has covered the fabric, it’s liberally sprinkled with sawdust to absorb any extra liquid and dried in the sun.
Now the colour magic happens…the fabric is dipped into the indigo vats, around 3-5m deep. Although the indigo dye looks more green than blue, it soon turns the rich shade of indigo as the dye oxidises with the air. The sweetest man with a gentle, serene face was in charge of the indigo vat. As you can see…
After another dry in the sun, the fabric is washed in an alum bath to remove the mud, sawdust and excess dye. Then it’s true indigo beauty and pattern is revealed.
We were able to make our own fabric using the mud-resist indigo dyeing technique. I hope you’ll join me back tomorrow when I show you what I made…
all photography by Megan Smith