One of my projects involved block printing in India’s Bhuj desert region. I designed a trilogy of repeatable patterns, quite abstract and geometric, and found an elderly block carver (see picture to left) who was reputed to be the best in the region.
This craftsman, who was in his 80s, carved my designs into mango wood so it would endure for years and sent me on my way to meet the printers. I then took my newly carved blocks by bus to the remote village of Damadka where I spent many days learning how to print my own cloth.
I’ll never forget the bruises on my hands from karate chopping each block placement to ensure its imprint. Nor will I forget the challenge of registering the patterns precisely using nothing more than the naked eye. The wonderful sarpanch, the so-called mayor of this town, Khatri Mohammed Siddique Ismail, was quite generous in lending me his expertise and workshop for my curious endeavors.
By year’s end, we had printed more than 700 meters of cloth in natural dyes of indigo, madder root, pomegranate, alizarin & iron. What gorgeous clothes my tailors made from this cloth!