The Art of Block Printing - Behind the scenes
Posted on 18 April 2018
It’s been an exciting start to the year, and we at Maisha HQ are all set to launch our new collection very soon! Make sure you don’t miss it- sign up for our newsletter!
Before the official launch of ‘Jaipur Chic’, I thought I’d share with you snippets of the collection in the making. Ever since the beginning, it has been my goal to embrace my roots and all that I know and love. I am lucky to have been born and brought up in Africa, and my Indian heritage gives me an intimate link to the rich culture and magic of both worlds.
I want to capture the beauty of these regions through every collection. Every interaction, fabric and design casts light on traditions, cultures and local craftsmanship that are important to me. With this in mind, the Maisha team decided to move from the plains of Africa to mystical India for this year’s ‘Resort’ collection. We travelled to a village just outside of Jaipur called Kaladera, and this is where our magical journey begins.
When we decided to center our collection around India, we strove to find the perfect workshop in Jaipur that supported our interests. Months of phone calls and mountains of emails with contacts later, we finally met the family behind our entire ‘Resort’ collection. Instantly, we knew they were the one. An extended household live together, ranging from parents, siblings, elders, kids, aunts and uncles! This family has kept the traditions of block printing alive right here in the village, using the same skills passed down from generations before them.
It was thrilling to be invited into their village. We saw the dim rooms where organic white fabric is stored in soft, starchy bundles. Yards and yards of these are hand washed in shallow concrete pools by the younger men in the family. Then, it’s spread out by the women to dry and bleach naturally under the hot sun.
The men are tasked to dye the fabrics in vivid colours. Fabrics are dipped into vats of dye and come out dark and unpromising, but after several washes and left to dry once more, they turn into a beautiful, smoky blue.
The printing blocks are hand carved, and passed down the entire length of the fabric with amazing precision. It takes hundreds of hours of practice for an artisan to stamp without causing a break in the repeat pattern. And they do it in a blink of an eye- it is incredible to watch them at their speed and accuracy.
After the dye is set, washed again and dried once more, the fabrics go through some serious quality control. After that, the fabrics are packed up and ready to be made into a collection!
It’s truly an emotional moment when you finally get a chance to touch the final fabric. Witnessing many skillful hands and processes that brought it to perfection is not only inspiring to watch, but humbling as well.
The warmth and hospitality I received from this family was beyond anything I’ve previously experienced! I was welcomed into their humble homes with open arms, constantly fed the most delicious meals and treated as part of the family. Currently living a fast-paced concrete jungle like Hong Kong, it’s a deep breath of fresh air to be able to experience some calmness and such generosity in the most remote of locations. Simplicity, honesty and kindness in whatever we do: that is what we should all strive to be.
That’s why, through the ‘Resort’ collection, we aim to give back to the family who helped us realise our collection. We want to improve their housing and send the kids to school in the village, and part of our sales will go towards this endeavour.
It is our intention is to stay true to the ideals of the technique, respecting the artisans involved, and birth a final product that is versatile yet iconic. As a designer, I believe that fashion can be used to educate us on artisans and cultures around us. Slow fashion still needs a lot more love, but I think with the shift in mindset these days, we’re getting there together!
I hope you love this collection as much as I loved designing and working on it. If you do purchase an item from this collection, please take a moment to appreciate the skill and talent that has gone into making it, and remember the amazing family from a little village in Jaipur who made it happen.