Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Of Ajrak Prints and Gota Work (and many memories)

The Color Caravan is an India-based organization that supports the work of artisans. With it being peak summer here in the States (and therefore, skirt season), I thought it would be great to feature some of the block printed skirts offered by the organization along with a brief description of the work behind these gorgeous fabrics. I love that they are block printed, that you can twirl around in them and have the skirt fan out just like a Bollywood heroine's (at least a heroine of the 70's!), love that they are in my favorite colors of rust and brick red and dark blue and green and that they are made for the light-hearted girl inside all of us (addressing my predominantly female blog audience!). I haven't visited India in almost 2 years and just when I think that as I have lived outside the country for more than half my life, my ties to the home country maybe loosening, I will see a picture or hear a tune or smell a fragrance and suddenly I am bound to India all over again. Who knew a picture of a skirt could trigger an avalanche of memories?! You know what they say, you can take the girl out of India but....

Swati Seth of The Color Caravan kindly sent me this description of the work that you see in these skirts:
"Handblock Print/Ajrak Skirts
These 26 kali skirts have been hand block printed at the workshop of one of the greatest Ajrak /hand block printing artists. The artist follows traditional methods of dyeing & printing and use natural dyes that are derived from plants & minerals. The skirts have golden ribbon trim around the border hem.

About Ajrak: Ajrak is a block-printed textile that is resist-dyed using natural dyes. including indigo and madder. It is made by Khatris community in Kutch, Gujarat and is distinguished by its color- blue with red - and its complex geometric & floral patterns. It's name is derived from 'azarak', 'blue' in Arabic &  Persian. Ajrak is a legacy of text.  It takes skill & patience to make Ajrak. There are between 14-16 different stages of dyeing & printing, which take 14-21 days to complete. The resulting cloth is soft against the skin and jewel-like in appearance, pleasing to touch & appealing to the eye.

Natural dyes: Ajrak prints are dominated by the use of intense patterning and jewel-like colors; all obtained from natural dyes and fixed with an eco-friendly mordant, alum. The beauty of Ajrak relies on expert manipulation of these materials for dyeing and printing. They are all bio-degradable and environment friendly; they maintain their balance and are in harmony with nature. Main dye sources are varied: red is obtained from madder root, aktizarin, sappan wood and lac; blue comes from indigo plant; yellow is from pomegranate, rinds and turmeric; green is achived by over-dyeing indigo with turmeric and pomegranate; and black is produced from scrap iron and jaggery. The use of henna, rhubarb root and tamarisk also adds to the variety of shades that are produced at our artist's workshop in Kutch.

 Gota work:Traditionally, Gota ribbons were woven with a warp of flattened gold and silver wire and weft of silk/cotton thread and used as functional and decorative trims for a variety of garments &  textiles used by royalty, members of the court, temple idols, priests etc. With the subsequent substitution of pure gold & silver with gilt or lurex and the mass production of gota came to be used by all communities & castes in Rajasthan. In the technique of 'gota tukdi', gota is cut into shapes such as gamla (flower pot), kairi (paisley) & champak flower, and appliqued onto a base fabric embellished with embroidery techniques such as zardoziari. Gota patti involves the folding of tapes into basic rhomboid units, referred to as patti or leaves, and combining them to create elaborate motifs &  patterns."

 You can get in touch with The Color Caravan to check for the availability and pricing of these skirts.

Image credits/copyright: The Color Caravan. Thanks, Swati!

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