Inside the world of the Anoki Block Printing Museum

India is a heaven for fabric lovers, not just today, but for the last 500 years. India’s fabric production has always been stellar, and the abundance of materials and labor here have created a long history of spectacular cloth. There have been mentions in sources dating back to the 12th Century discussing printed cloth from India, and textile trade went first east, to Malaysia and China,and then, with the growth of European overseas trade, west, to France, England, Holland and Portugal. The magnificent printing and dyeing techniques, Indian innovations, made the cloth from India endlessly valuable and exploded into the European mentality, exciting tailors and customers alike. Textile trade changed the world, and that’s not an overstatement. Interwoven Globe was a fantastic show at the Met about it two years ago, if anyone got a chance to check it out, and it described these global trade networks and their significant beautifully.

The more time I spend in India, the more amazing fabrics I see and learn about. There are so many varieties, methods of creation, techniques and options that it’s wildly overwhelming sometimes, int he best possible way. But I would say that one fabric which most people think of when they think about Indian fabric is block printed cloth, and with good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s interesting, and it screams “Indian fabric”, especially if they’ve put an elephant on it.

Block printing emerged as a popular method in Northern India, specifically Rajasthan, in Medieval India. Soon Surat in Gujarat became the center of fabric trade in India, with painted and printed fabric prized for its colors and complicated dying techniques.

I recently had an opportunity to visit the Anoki Museum of Hand Printing in Jaipur, and I have to say it was a fantastic experience. I would recommend it for all fabric lovers who visit India. So I’m sharing some of my photos with you to entice you into visiting! It’s really an awesome place in a restored Haveli filled with so much wonderful information and fabric and you can buy locally printed stuff in the shop and the cafe is excellent. Seriously, it’s fantastic! I learned so much about block printing, and I’m so happy to know more about this fascinating process which has so many iterations and significance.

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This is quite a complicated method which is now cheaper imitated, but the real thing was prized by emperors and kings.

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The black on white is a very traditional motif.

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Men in Rajasthan are big on turbans, with different styles for different communities and even for different jobs.

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Textile is so important in this area, and there was a whole codification of fabric, who could wear which cloth, etc. There were fabrics for widows, unmarried women, married women, craftsmen of different kinds, nobility, royalty, etc.

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See? It’s crazy! Beautiful and uncomfortably restrictive. That’s India for you in a nutshell.

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Traditional outfits.

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Not so traditional outfits made by modern designers using block prints.

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There are demonstrations of the craft, which is amazing. Four blocks make up one small design and this man moves SO fast. He asked me if I wanted to try, but I just wanted to watch him work.

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This amazing man is a block maker. Too. Cool.

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Blocks are made from wood and metal

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Here are a few of the MANY tools that go into make a block

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Here are the blocks for the tie-dye method.

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This shows the stages of the dying process. That’s 15 stages for one design!

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Kind of amazing, right, what block printing can do? It’s not just elephants on flowy pants for tourists…

India. It’s a fabric education every day.

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4 Comments

Filed under Fabric, Travel, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Inside the world of the Anoki Block Printing Museum

  1. This is INCREDIBLE! I would love to read anything else you have to say about Indian textiles! This is fascinating.

  2. Beautiful, bet you spent a long time there! I never knew that you could use blocks in tie dye either. Very interesting.

  3. lizway

    The ensembles are so chic but that printed turban gives me life! I would be into this.

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