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THE ART OF BLOCKPRINTING

THE ART OF BLOCKPRINTING

It's been months in the planning and designing and I'm so happy to finally launch the new 2022 collection of Cathy Curates pillowcases. I hand picked these stunning designs and have selected a variety of colours and patterns that I know will appeal to all tastes. Some prints are more traditional (such as the paisleys) and some are timeless and also modern (florals). Ideal for bedrooms that need a pop of colour to compliment a plain duvet set, these make great gifts and are sold in pairs for only $40. 

While I was in Jaipur last month I visited my textile suppliers and met the clever artisans who print our fabrics. I hope you enjoy the photos below as much as I enjoyed observing and recording the process. It's mesmerising to watch them work and makes one appreciate the process and craft so much more.

Block prints are done by eye, and telltale signs of the human hand, even imperfections, are part of the ineffable humanity and beauty of the craft. Chippas, are a caste of printers who continue day after day to stamp lengths of cotton fabric with colour using hand-carved wood blocks. They were taught this trade by their parents, who were, in turn, taught by theirs — each generation working almost exactly as the one before, going back at least 300 years. 

Wooden blocks are hand carved specifically for each layer and colour of the design. 

Each layer of colour is applied to the fabric by hand using dyes and paints. Each colour represents a different layer which creates the final pattern. It's a labourious and incredible craft that has been passed down through generations and I want to help support and help to maintain in India through the Cathy Curates label. Some crafts are universal, but block printing is unique to Jaipur and it's being adapted, rethought and remade for the 21st century.

Although block printing was developed first in China, it's India where block printing has flourished. India has yielded one of the most magnificent pattern vocabularies ever. And yet for the past 200 years the industry has been on the precipice of extinction, doomed in part by the popularity that helped create it. Add technological advances, corruption, bungled policies and the greater income opportunities in India’s cities, and the picture looks bleak. Many companies such as Anokhi and Block Print have reinvented the fashion sector internationally and heralded the reinvention of this ancient craft. 

Long padded tables are necessary to speed out the fabric in long lengths and apply the layers of block printing. 

Perhaps with the knowledge that it involves a culture built around a community, in which families and neighbours are working and living in tandem, often across religions, tribes and generations, from a shared history is part of its charm. It is not an easy life. It may be that one doesn’t so much see craft, but actually, feels it. This process is as meditative and calming to watch in real life as it is a functioning and thriving industry.  

The first base layer design and colour is applied. Learning to block print takes up to five years to train and master block printers are highly respected and valued. 

The second layer of blue in another more intricate pattern is applied. the block must be positioned in the exact place so the pattern is perfect. 

The third and final layer is applied. the design is now complete. 

Meeting the makers who create my block prints makes such a big difference. They appreciate that the customers are interested in understanding their craft. 

Each pillowcase is printed using the exact same techniques but using different blocks and colours. 

SHOP ALL BLOCK PRINTED PILLOWCASES HERE

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