Project 11 Making a test collage block

I completed this project before going to India, but have not had time to write up my notes properly yet. I approached it by brainstorming different materials that I could use, and deciding which textures would look very different against one another. I used hardboard from the back of a clip frame, and filled the clip holes with polyfilla. The base board was sealed with modpodge before the textures were applied. I took this photo whilst the glue was still wet to demonstrate the patterns drawn in glue. Top row, left to right: Sandpaper, elastic bands and metal objects, various weights of cotton and hessian, dried rose petals, skeleton leaf, cotton gathered in a smocking machine, foil wrapper, heat treated Tyvek, pheasant feathers, lace, crocheted wool and packing plastic cord. Bottom row, left to right: vegetable bag, textured wallpapers and khadi paper, wood glue (some drawn into with a skewer), tea bags, mulberry bark, hemp string, masking fluid pen, tissue paper. The whole block was sealed with modpodge and a final layer of acrylic varnish.

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All the textures printed well giving interesting results, and I was particularly pleased with the gathered fabric. I had used the sandpaper as a substitute for carborandum, used to print areas where denser inking is required. This seemed to have the desired effect. Heat treated Tyvek and foil looked very similar in the final print. I had made some smaller test collages before completing the final piece, and felt that the resulting prints had an almost photographic quality to them. I made two impressions of the sample collage, one on Somerset Satin and one on Rives paper. It didn’t fit into my desktop press, so was handprinted. On the smaller prints, slightly different effects were achieved with the press. More embossed with lots of detail despite the inability to vary pressure in lighter and darker areas. The press did have a tendancy to slip ever so slightly on occasion and it was tricky to get the pressure right on different thickness boards.

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I made another board in the same fashion as in the Printmaking Handbook on Collatypes. After gluing veg bags and other textured materials to the board, I smeared the board with Pollyfilla. pushing objects into it to make impressions and sanded it slightly once dried. I then stabilised the plaster with Modpodge and sealed as before with acrylic varnish. The resulting block gave a better print when inked heavily.

 

 

coll2ed

At the same time I made a plastered plate with various indentations made with a small scalpel, modelling tools, string and mulberry bark. This was my favourite of the two prints, and felt that the marks were strong and well defined.

coll1ed

The final part of this project was to experiment using more than one colour per print in a number of ways. I tried the following techniques as labelled below. I had used the rainbow rolling technique in the reduction linocut, and think that it worked to greater effect on a smooth surface, The differences between dab printing and rainbow rolling were not hugely different.

Layering colours

Layering colours

Rainbow rolling

Rainbow rolling

Dab printing

Dab printing

Masking

Masking

As you can see, I had a few problems with registration when layering colours, as the block wasn’t entirely square after collaging. I tried using a jig, but the dampness of the paper meant that an embossed ghost of the jig was on each of the prints. I quite liked the misregistration when it was only very slight, as it added to the embossing to give an illusion of a third dimension. For this block, I felt that the masking technique was most effective. I thnk the sharpness of the colour division worked well with the definition of the marks.

Clothing factory

ed5 garments

ed5 shop

Another day, another factory. We visited another printing factory, which was a contrast to the others demonstrating the difference between Sanganer and Bagru styles of block print designs. I was excited by the bright and bold colour combinations, and the very fashionable motif designs. I bought a lovely print with a small motif repeat, and contrasting kantha stitching in diamonds between the motifs. Fabric was available to buy in bundles sufficient to make up a tunic, trousers and a matching crepe scarf. The fabric for the tunics had a trim machine sewn for the neckline, and any extra detailing such as the kantha stitching was in the shape of the front and back pieces.

One thing that was particularly interesting was the block printing of a garment part way through construction, using newsprint as a mask. This avoided awkward placement of designs on the torso, and allowed complex construction with fluidity of pattern across the garment.

ed5 dress2

ed5 dress

The pattern cutting was clever, keeping the arms and body as a single piece to avoid the tricky balancing of the shoulders.

This machinist was sewing edgings freehand in a number of ornate designs. I thought the padding and covering of the machine arm with the needle poking through was a good idea, protecting the work.

ed5 trim

During our trip, as a group we decided to make a book for Jamie, who organised the holiday. We each had a page to work with. Below is my contribution, a sketch based on our experiences so far. I used some blocks bought in Sanganer, and a base of torn local newspaper layered with white acrylic paint. Colour was added with watercolour washes and Inktense pencils. I titled it ‘The Spirit of Recycling” which seemed appropriate given our visit to the paper factory. I was also reminded of the layers of torn posters on the walls of the streets visible in most places around the city.

ed5 sketch

Sanganer

We stopped at Sanganer, a village feted by Anokhi as the home of the art of block-printed textiles in Rajasthan. The village is still home to a great number of carpenters, who sit on the floor of their workshops carving intricate designs for commissions. Each carpenter has his own unique designs, and they are very protective of these designs as they are their livelihood. Many sold small blocks directly from their workshops.

Approximately 1.5″ slices of shisham wood were laid out on the pavement for seasoning. The blocks are cut to size, and a paper design applied to the surface. Very fine chisels are used for carving, tapped with a length of timber. The chisels and blocks are rotated between cuts in a very fluid motion which was quite mesmerising to watch. I bought a selection of small edging blocks for my own stash as we looked around.

There was also a supplier making and selling the mesh beds for inking trays. String beds are used rather than metal to avoid rusting and colouring of the ink. These ink beds are really a luxury for small scale printing, and a sponge is sufficient.

ed4 carving

ed4 inking bed

ed4 workshop

Later in the week, we visited the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing at Amer, very close to the Amber Fort. The museum building is 400 years old, and was bought by Anokhi and renovated to it’s original state in 1988. There we learned more about the history of block printing at Sanganer, and the sort of textiles that have been produced there. Sanganer textiles differ from those produced in Bagru, as Sanganer tends to use brighter colours, smaller motifs and more screen printing and chemical dyes.

We learned about the language of textiles, where in various communities colours and designs of clothing are used to communicate caste and marital status. I have bought two books from the museum that I am working my way through. They are particularly lovely for textiles study as they have swatches of fabrics on almost every page. There were four or five books in the whole range, but I was unfortunately unable to get the others before selling out, and they are not available on the internet.

Paper factory

Our next excursion was to  a paper factory, to see how t-shirts are recycled into handmade and screenprinted rag paper. These papers are sold in the UK in outlets such as Paperchase. My mother is an employee of a charity shop, and having known that many ‘rag’ clothes unfit for sale in the shop were sent to India for recycling, this was particularly interesting for her to hear about. The process is as follows in these photographs. The men work 12 hour shifts, and I was surprised that those working with their hands in the water-paper pulp tanks all day did not wear gloves. The work is labour intensive and the atmosphere pretty smelly, of the local rubbish for recycling, and the heady smell of printing inks.

After shredding, strips of fabric are sorted into colour ples. A day at the factory is dedicated to making paper of a single colour. We visited on a 'white day'.

After shredding, strips of fabric are sorted into colour ples. A day at the factory is dedicated to making paper of a single colour. We visited on a ‘white day’.

Fabric strips are blended with water to form a pulpy solution, feeding large tanks on the factory floor.

Fabric strips are blended with water to form a pulpy solution, feeding large tanks on the factory floor.

Pairs of men dip a large mesh frame into the water to catch an even layer of pulp. A layer of scrim is laid on top...

Pairs of men dip a large mesh frame into the water to catch an even layer of pulp. A layer of scrim is laid on top…

...and flipped onto the pile of wet paper.

…and flipped onto the pile of wet paper.

Excess water is squeeaed out of the pile before loading onto a wheelbarrow.

Excess water is squeeaed out of the pile before loading onto a wheelbarrow.

The remaining excess water is removed by a mechanical press.

The remaining excess water is removed by a mechanical press.

The paper is separated from the laters of scrim...

The paper is separated from the laters of scrim…

 

The sheets of pulp are separated from the layers of scrim, and hung out to dry in a huge shed.

… and hung out to dry in a huge shed.

 

Quality control occurs at this point.

Quality control occurs at this point.

 

The paper is fed through a roller press between sheets of metal...

The paper is fed through a roller press between sheets of metal…

... and cut to size with a gullotine.

… and cut to size with a guillotine.

Selected papers are screen printed.

Selected papers are screen printed.

Registration is acheived by slotting paper into cardboard tabs taped to a glass bed.

Registration is acheived by slotting paper into cardboard tabs taped to a glass bed.

Finished papers.

Finished papers.

Packed for transport.

Packed for transport.

Handmade notebooks were made by six men; two making covers, two stitching signatures and two glueing and finishing.

Handmade notebooks were made by six men; two making covers, two stitching signatures and two glueing and finishing.

 

Cardboard was also recycled at the factory.

Cardboard was also recycled at the factory.

 

From this...

From this…

... to this.

… to this.

 

 

 

 

Anokhi Factory Visit

We were very fortunate to have a rare visit inside the Anokhi village factory, a block printing village established in 1970 to promote the art of block printing. Today the company’s head designer is of Western origin, having married into the family, and this is reflected in the style of the company’s more recent collections. Anokhi is best known in this country for it’s partnership with the high street store EAST, and in the past supplied Monsoon. When I got home I found that some of my old Monsoon clothes were indeed likely to have started life here. By the end of my visit to Jaipur, I felt quite familiar with the brand look, and could quite easily identify pieces. It takes approximately one year for a garment to make it from production to sale in the UK, and the company are quite understandably very protective of their designs, hence the rarity of outside visitors.

The complex itself was a very peaceful environment with a lovely garden in the middle. The working hours were sociable, and the 350 employees are all provided lunch made with produce grown in the factory grounds. The employees’ children have free education, and  we visited a pre-school onsite.

Dyed fabric is bought in from local villages, and screen printing runs are done on site. Block printing test runs are done here, but the blocks are packed up and the work outsourced to villages such as Bagru. Blocks are made from shisham wood, otherwise known as Indian rosewood. The block printing is done in a large gazebo, and it is too damp in monsoon season to work. Screen printing is done with large screens operated by men in pairs. Alternate repeats are printed to avoid smudging the pattern, using registration notches on the table edge. The men then move back to the beginning to print the remaining repeats.

The company is very water conscious as there is a critical water shortage in Jaipur. The water is collected in Monsoon season, and typically filtered and reused seven times before being used to water bushes in the garden.

Fabric is quality checked

Fabric is quality checked

ed2 test print

Blocks ready for sending to the villages

Blocks ready for sending to the villages

Screen printing

Screen printing

Fabric is washed and dried at every stage

Fabric is washed and dried at every stage

Fabric laid out for laser cutting, on perforated paper read by the laser computer

Fabric laid out for laser cutting, on perforated paper read by the laser computer

Laser pattern cutting

Laser pattern cutting

Garment construction

Garment construction

Garments quality checked and loose threads cut

Garments quality checked and loose threads cut

Apprentices learn the Anokhi way on Japanese machines

Apprentices learn the Anokhi way on Japanese machines

Pressing and folding for sale

Pressing and folding for sale

Shop tags applied, completing the process

Shop tags applied, completing the process

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bagru Block Printing Village

On our first full day in Jaipur, we visited a block printing factory where we were very privileged to be the first group ever to partake in a workshop using working blocks and inks with tuition from the printers. We then went on to visit people in their homes, each dedicated to a very specific aspect of textile production.

Block printed fabrics

Block printed fabrics

Blocks library

Blocks library

Printer at work

Printer at work

Cotton was the main fabric being printed in varius weights, and all the dyes were vegetable based. The palatte was (approximately) indigo blue, red, ochre, burnt sienna, black and violet. The consisency of the printing ink was quite runny and similar to single cream. The blocks were heavily inked from a wooden inking tray. The tray had a frame inside it, strung with string like a tennis racket, and heavy fabric layered on top. A small credit card type tool was used to flatten out the pad and rid it of any impression from the block to ensure even inking.

Ink tray

Ink tray

In this factory the fabric appeared not to be prepared with any guidelines, and the hardest thing I found when I had a go was keeping the rows of prints in line. The fabric was pinned onto long tables covered with heavy cotton known as serendipity cloth. We bought some samples of serendipity cloth later in the holiday, rich with ghost prints of many hundreds of print runs. The printers works with precision at a great speed, lining up two corners, tipping the block onto the fabric, firmly tapping the handle three times and lifting the block straight up in a single swift motion. In multiple block designs, the key block was printed first, with colour fills being added on top. The fabrics were laid out on the ground in the sun to dry, and were touch dry in only a few minutes.

Our turn to try

Our turn to try

From here we visited a series of houses. In the first, we saw large dye vats and washers, with fabric being rolled from one spool to another several times through the bath which was heated underneath by a furnace. The furnace was attended by a woman with mechanical bellows, a hot job in sometimes very warm weather. The fabric was then hung out to dry on huge frames. We also had a demonstration of a form of tie dye similar to some of the samples I produced when researching shibori. This technique was called Bandhani, and a single piece of fabric would take a whole day to prepare for the dye bath. She used a finger to measure out the pattern as she worked.

Dye baths

Dye baths

Attending the furnace

Attending the furnace

Fabric drying

Fabric drying

Preparing the dye

Preparing the dye

Bhandani tie dye

Bandhani tie dye

Prepared Bandhani fabric

Prepared bhandani fabric

We also visited a home where mattress frames and toppers were being produced. The topppers were simple quilts (not patchwork), filled with cotton fibrefill and sewn with securing buttons, similar to our mattresses at home. One thing that struck me on these visits, was the extent to which the home was given over to the industry, with several rooms and all of their land occupied by storage and production.

Cotton fibre fill preparation

Cotton fibre fill preparation

We saw two methods of mud resist, locally known as Dabu. In the first, a mud slurry was used to print fabric with wooden block in exactly the same way as in the ink printing factory. The work was then covered with a fine layer of sifted wheatchaff and dried grass. The fabric was then dried in the sun before being dyed in indigo vats. If areas of deeper and lighter tone were required, more mud was printed on top and prepared in the same way before a second dip in the dye bath. The sample was then washed out to remove mud and excess indigo.

Mud printing tray

Mud printing tray

Sifting the wheat chaff and grass

Sifting the wheat chaff and grass

Mud prints drying

Mud prints drying

More affluent families were able to use a method of Dabu used to create the crackled resist pattern often seen in the centre of bedspreads. This method requires the use of wheat chaff milled to a very fine powder. This was mixed with mud, chalk and glue before being spread on the centre of the fabric with a large brush. The process requires a large area of land for laying out the fabric for painting and drying. The mud is then cracked into a fine pattern before the fabric is dyed. The family we visited had an indigo vat in the porch of their home.

 

Dabu

Dabu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colouricious Block Printing Holiday

It has been a long time since my last post, and this is partly because I have just returned from a textiles and block printing holiday to Jaipur, India with Colouricious Creatives. I have visited a paper factory making handmade papers for retailers sich as Paperchase; the Anokhi factory, museum and block carvers and printers who have ranges in EAST stores; and had the opportunity to weave beside a rug weaver in the Jaipur City Palace. I have learnt so much, and although have written up research points in the past about this industry, I feel I have achieved a whole new level of understanding. Over the coming days and weeks, I will be writing posts on my experiences illustrated with my photographs, and working on a themed sketchbook started whilst I was away. I had grand plans for beautifully considered photos and lots of plein air sketching, but the hustle and bustle of life in Rajasthan did not allow for this. If you are inspired by this, I would highly recommend this company to travel with, run by the lovely Jamie Malden.