YOUR NAME AND PO­SI­TION AT STU­DIO BA­GRU?

SHIBUI Issue - - MEET THE MAKER -

My name is Jeremy Fritzhand and I’m the Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Stu­dio Ba­gru.

CAN YOU TELL US A LIT­TLE ABOUT BLOCK PRINT­ING AS AN ART FORM?

Block print­ing is said to have a

2000 plus year his­tory, orig­i­nat­ing from the Han Dy­nasty in China. In the 15th and 16th cen­turies block printed fab­rics started show­ing up in Europe and In­dia. In Ra­jasthan, the towns of Ba­gru and San­ga­neer have his­to­ries of block print­ing dat­ing from the early 17th cen­tury. Block print­ing was used on fab­rics for special oc­ca­sions, and as a way to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween dif­fer­ent cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try. Since the 1970s, com­pa­nies like Anokhi, Brigitte Singh, and Soma Tex­tiles have taken block print to the global stage with mod­ern styles and in­cor­po­rat­ing more vi­brant pig­mented colours.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE STORY BE­HIND THE BLOCKS, HOW THE DE­SIGNS AND COLOURS ARE CHO­SEN?

Tra­di­tion­ally, spe­cific mo­tifs and de­signs were used for special oc­ca­sions, com­mu­nity meet­ings, and as a cul­tural dif­fer­en­tia­tor. Some­thing called a ja­jam is in an in­tri­cately printed floor cov­er­ing ap­prox­i­mately 10-12 feet long and 8 feet wide, which is used to dec­o­rate the floor of tem­ples and homes for special oc­ca­sions. Rekh blocks are out­line blocks that act as a guide for the datta (ac­cent) blocks. Gadh blocks are the back­ground colour blocks which are used to print colour on the back­ground in­stead of dye.

ARE THE CARVED DE­SIGNS SYM­BOLIC?

Yes, most com­mu­ni­ties have their own spe­cific bhuti (flo­ral mo­tif). You can of­ten find these mo­tifs on the tur­bans of vil­lage el­ders.

CAN YOU DE­SCRIBE THE PROCESS OF CARV­ING A WOODEN BLOCK FOR PRINT­ING?

The most com­mon wood used in Ba­gru for blocks is shee­sham wood (sim­i­lar to cher­ry­wood). It is a hard­wood that main­tains its shape over time, and has good dura­bil­ity. Af­ter the wood is cut into 1.5-inch slices, it is stacked and aged in the back of a work­shop for over a year, un­til it is thor­oughly dried. Af­ter the wood has been dried, the sur­face is pol­ished again, and then a thin layer of white paint is brushed on. From this stage, a block carver traces the mo­tif onto a piece of trans­fer paper from a print­out. The trans­fer paper is then placed on the top of the wood, and us­ing a very fine steel chisel and wooden ham­mer, the out­line of the de­sign is carved onto the sur­face of the block. Once the out­line is com­pleted, the carver will re­move the trans­fer paper, and fill the miss­ing lines us­ing a pen. From this stage, he will use var­i­ous steel chis­els to carve away at the block, and the de­sign comes to life.

HOW LONG DOES THE CARV­ING PROCESS TAKE?

The carv­ing process usu­ally takes two days for a 6-inch mod­er­ately de­tailed block de­sign – one day for the prepa­ra­tion of the block (sten­cil­ing, out­line and be­gin­ning of carv­ing), and one day for

com­plet­ing the carv­ing and fin­ish­ing. Af­ter the block is carved it is soaked in peanut oil for 5-7 days in order to ex­tend the life of the block.

WHAT WOULD BE THE USUAL LENGTH OF CLOTH WHICH IS PRINTED WITH A DE­SIGN OR WHAT’S THE LONG­EST YOU’VE PRINTED AT STU­DIO BA­GRU?

Typ­i­cally fab­ric is printed on 5-12 me­tre seg­ments. 5 me­tres is for kurta pa­jama sets (2.5m each prod­uct), 6-me­tre seg­ments are for saris, and 7-12 me­tre seg­ments are for plain run­ning ma­te­rial that will be used to make gar­ments. Bed­sheets and scarves are also printed at var­i­ous sizes and lengths.

ARE THERE DE­SIGNS CARVED INTO THE WOOD WHICH ARE UNIQUE TO STU­DIO BA­GRU, JAIPUR OR THE RE­GION?

Most re­gions around Jaipur use flo­ral mo­tifs and tribal de­signs as cul­tural dif­fer­en­tia­tors. Stu­dio Ba­gru is cur­rently only us­ing our sig­na­ture flower wheel de­sign (phul chakra) on prod­ucts we make. This is the same de­sign that is in­cor­po­rated into our logo.

DOES THE BLOCK CARV­ING SKILL TRA­DI­TION­ALLY STAY WITHIN THE ONE FAM­ILY AND IS IT A COM­MON PRO­FES­SION IN JAIPUR? HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN?

Block carv­ing is tra­di­tion­ally passed on from fa­ther to son. Ap­pren­tice­ships com­mence around

the age of 12, and then they start work­ing full time from 18. Sim­i­lar ap­pren­tice­ships hap­pen in the block print com­mu­nity.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR VIS­I­TOR WORK­SHOPS AT STU­DIO BA­GRU?

Our work­shops are open to all peo­ple in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about block print­ing. Our one-day work­shop starts at 9am in Ba­gru and for the first hour we walk around the town visit­ing the dif­fer­ent places where parts of the block print­ing process oc­cur – block carvers, the wash­ing area, dye­ing, print­ing, and pack­ag­ing. From 10-12 par­tic­i­pants get the chance to print their own scarves us­ing our col­lec­tion of over 200 de­signs, in­clud­ing geo­met­ric shapes. The one-day work­shops fin­ish with a tra­di­tional lunch served in Ba­gru. For par­tic­i­pants in­ter­ested in a more in depth ex­pe­ri­ence we cre­ate cus­tom tai­lored 2-7 day work­shops.

HAVE YOU GOT A LO­CAL’S TIP FOR VIS­I­TORS TO JAIPUR?

One of my fa­vorite places is Cafe Quaint at JKK (Jawa­har Kala Ken­dra, an art and per­for­mance space). Have a glass of kom­bucha and munch on some de­li­cious bites with lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. I also en­joy visit­ing Surya Mandir at the top of the Mon­key Tem­ple (Galta Gate) to watch the sun set over Jaipur.

THIS PAGE LEFT TO RIGHT Bhag­wati Devi stands proud in front of a field of fab­ric she cre­ated; Printed fab­ric dry­ing in the sun in Ba­gru.

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