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.
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.