Ajrakh Block Printing

 Ajrakh printing in progress.

Ajrakh printing in progress.

One of the workshops we'll be doing on our Gujarat tour is an Ajrakh (also Ajrak) block printing workshop. Ajrakh cloth is block printed with colors primarily deep red and indigo with some white and black made with natural dyes. Its history goes back to civilizations that lived in the Indus Valley around 2500-1500 BC. Originating from Sindhi culture, you can find some highly valued Ajrakh in the Kutch area of Gujarat. The Khatris, who migrated there from Sindh, Pakistan, in the 16th century are experts in this involved process. The Sindhis from Pakistan are predominantly Muslim. The basis of all Islamic art forms is balance and order.  It is this underlying principle governing the laws of creation that you'll find in Islamic art and Ajrakh designs.

The wood block artisans use a compass and ruler to create the exacting geometric designs. A set of blocks are needed for each design that includes an outline block, one for background, and one or two for filler.

IMG_9679.JPG

As a highly specialized craft, precise measuring and carving is required of an ajrakh printing block.

 

An Ajrakh cloth is usually about 2.5-3 meters in length. Several blocks are carved for each design, one for each color. The printing is done by hand and involves several stages of printing and washing. The execution and format of an Ajrakh print concerns a sense of order and discipline. The pattern is laid out in a grid with horizontal and vertical borders revolving around a main central all over patterned area. Ajrakh printed cloth can be used for scarves, shawls, bed fabrics and gifts given as tokens of respect. In contemporary use for the tourist industry, you'll find men's shirts and women's garments. 

It's easy to appreciate the beauty and work that goes into creating these fabrics and to realize the importance of keeping this technology and art form alive.

India Dreaming...

  block printed Ajrak fabric with natural dyes

block printed Ajrak fabric with natural dyes

Why India? I get asked that a lot. For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed about going. I think it's because the country has always held a certain mystery and beauty for me. The different religions, customs, caste system are all so interesting. Not to mention the attraction to the sensuous flowing saris, mode of dress, and gorgeous textiles of all kinds. Even now, I am fascinated learning about different cultures, what beliefs and customs they have and how all of that is tied to the textiles that are worn and produced. I love learning processes and techniques that have been handed down for centuries and coming up with how I can adapt them to my own art making. Now that I've been to India, I can't wait to go back. There is so much there to explore and experience.

-Sue Stover

  dyeing fabrics with natural dyes

dyeing fabrics with natural dyes

  fabric being laid out to dry

fabric being laid out to dry

  weaving a shawl

weaving a shawl

India Changed Me

IMG_0172.JPG

Response

Patterns, tessellated, hexagonal, stars.

Sun gate, moon gate, lion’s gate, more.

Kingfisher Strong.

Blessing, anointing, flower petals, pattern again.

Filth, poverty, caste, oppression, freedom, slavery.

Chanting, prayer, empty, full, covered, uncovered,

Lost, found.

Chanting, prayer, empty, full, covered, uncovered,

Lost, found.

 - Amanda Jolley


My first trip across the ocean was to The Netherlands in 2009. I went with a group with the purpose of experiencing Amsterdam and a few other locations through the lens of art history. We visited historical places, the museums, kirks (churches), all the while meeting each day to learn more about the history of art and culture. Wonderful trip, along with other various trips that I've truly enjoyed along the way.

But then my husband and I went to India in 2017 and I had my mind blown. We went with a group led by Sue Stover and Michelle Fletcher. We spent time learning from artisans and visiting ancient structures. While we did some art making of our own while on the trip, India offered so much in way of texture, sound, and color that my own art making seemed unimportant at the time. I had a desire to be fully attentive to what India was presenting. I found myself writing poetry in the early morning as I burned my incense and prepared for the day ahead. A strange magic was happening in my soul. I found myself blooming.

Upon my return home, I could tell as I entered my studio that a profound change had happened within. My approach to life returned to center. My painting process shifted. I no longer cared about outcome and just let the paintings pour out. My view of day to day changed. My ability to say no came easier as my focus sharpened. India flowed out into my day to day. It wasn’t so much that I was reproducing anything that I saw there, but rather that an essence was pouring forth.

Needless to say, I wanted to return. I am fortunate that Sue did as well, and not only Sue, but some of my family. After seeing the profound effect India had on my husband and I, the siblings started planning and this past January we went back with family. While the focus of our trip was different, more touristy, my love for India did not wane. My family says its one of the best trips they have ever taken. Life-changing.

As Sue and I planned for the trip to Gujarat, India next January, we were united in what we wanted to share with the group. This includes not only the a hands-on textile experience with local artisans and cultural immersion, but also a sense of support and inclusion. One thing I feel very strongly about is that those that trust us on this adventure are given space to blossom as we journey together and explore the patterns, process, architecture, food, color, texture, smells...

-Amanda Jolley

You are officially invited on a grand adventure

Grand adventures are the best kind. They are full of discovery, exploration, excavation, and are often a catalyst for internal change. This adventure we're inviting you on is exactly that and there's one more thing, you get to experience it without having to plan a thing (except your flight there and what goes in your suitcase). Trust your gut, that voice from within that is telling you it's time.

Our first trip as Two Artists Travel LLC will be to the Kutch district of Gujarat, India January 19-30, 2019. Before settling on this location, we made sure it would fit our criteria to provide you the best experience. Can this be an art and cultural exchange? Can we spend hands-on time with the local artisans? Can we really dig into process, story, and culture? This particular area of India is a huge yes to all our criteria.

Kutch is bursting with handicrafts whose influence can be traced to Swat Valley (Pakistan), the Middle East, Rajasthan (India) and Africa, as well as its ancient local traditions. Know for distinct designs in embroidery, tie-dye (bandhani), Ajrakh block printing, and weaving, the patterns and process are brimming with stories passed on for centuries. The area is also well known for its bell making, lacquered wood, and batik. We will have so much to explore and experience.

We will be breathing in pattern and symbol everywhere we go, the temples and monuments, step wells, architecture, village life, homes, and landscape (both desert and sea). All of life is decorated and celebrated, yet without a Western aesthetic. This is truly a trip for all the senses.

We will continue to share about this adventure and what to expect, but feel free to ask questions here in the comments, or contact us at info@twoartiststravel.com.