Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and since I’ve now come full circle with the project I set out to do, I thought I’d post part of my final report that I wrote for Fulbright. After many weeks of mad dashes to finish the block prints and small paintings, as well as present at the Fulbright Goa conference with my fellow artist collaborators, and install our Super/Power show (more pictures to come in a later post)… well, now I’m in more of a reflective mood, and wanting to make some sense of the past 6 months. So here is the official recap of my time in India (with some pics thrown in for visual aid):
Getting busy on the print table
September 2010—We arrived in Delhi on September 21, and in Jaipur on September 24. For the rest of September, I established myself in Jaipur, including establishing contact with my advisor, Rachel Singh, Head Designer of Anokhi. I also found my way around Jaipur, including getting a cell phone, internet access, searching out food resources, and generally acclimating.
Girl Printer, Bagru
October 2010—I began my research in earnest from early October, which included making multiple visits to textile collections in and around Jaipur (City Palace Museum, Albert Hall Museum, Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing). Specifically, at the Anokhi farm and factory, I went through their entire archive of block patterns, which includes thousands of prints, both traditional and contemporary. I also spent many hours and days reading through their extensive research library, both on-site and at home. I established a home studio in which I developed and worked on my own patterns through sketches and small paint studies.
sketch for rug design
November 2010—In addition to my continued work at Anokhi and in the studio, I spent 3 weeks studying miniature painting with Ajay Sharma, master painter, learning the process of pigment and paper preparation, burnishing of the paper, order of pigment application, up to final inking.
Concurrently, I continued my work on the development of 4 distinct block patterns, with 4 colors each. By the end of November, I had finalized my designs. With the advice and help of Rachel Singh, I translated them into 4 separate colors to aid the block carver in the pattern. I also met with carvers and explained to them the exact instructions of the design. In November, I also took trips to surrounding print farms and centers, such as Sanganer, Bagru, and Jahota, where I spent several days experimenting with mud resist and indigo printing. I also established contact with carvers and printers in Bagru, and took a weekend trip to Pushkar.
December 2010— I made contact with a rug manufacturer to consult with him about translating some designs into rug form, to be included in an art installation. I also received back the blocks from the carvers (17 blocks in total, from several different carvers) and began sampling the blocks with various colors, patterns, and block combinations.
Puzzling the pattern
I was able to use the master printers at Anokhi, and worked closely with them during the sampling process, printing many of the samples myself, as well as with their guidance. It was a wonderful collaborative experience to see my designs coming alive in block form on fabric.
In mid-December I did a mini-residency in Ranthambore, near the tiger preserve. This involved observing and photographing the rich bird species in the area, and I completed a total of 10 watercolors in about 12 days. Three of these I donated to the non-profit Tiger Watch, and I also visited a local school and sat in on classes. Over Christmas, I spent several days in Udaipur, where I visited the City Palace there, a rich source of pattern and color, and with a remarkable miniature painting collection. Right after Christmas, we went to Gujarat. There, I visited with the head of the textile department at NID (National Institute of Design)in Ahmedabad, Aditi Ranjan.
Handmade in India book cover
She is an incredible source of textile information, and is the co-author of the recent publication Handmade in India, a tome-like encyclopedia of all the many crafts and textiles in India.
Kite string preparation in Ahmedabad (no pictures allowed in Calico Museum!)
I also visited and toured the NID campus with fellow Fulbrighters Abir Mullick and Kathryn Myers. One of the most memorable and anticipated experiences was going to the famed Calico Museum, one of the world’s most amazing textile museums.
Modern-day indigo dyer on the mobile
After Ahmedabad, we took a nine-hour bus ride to Bhuj, in the Kutch region of western Gujurat. Besides the museums in Bhuj, we spent 5 days touring around the region and visiting cottage textile centers, often in artisans’ own homes, including Ajrak block printing at the famed block printing farm of the Khatri family, the only Ajrak printers in all of Gujarat (there is only one other such center in India; otherwise, traditional Ajrak printing is mostly done in Pakistan). We also visited weavers, embroiderers, and the wonderful NGO Kala Raksha. I met with Judy Frater, the founder of Kala Raksha, and learned more about the work being done to help preserve the village textile traditions in Kutch.
Kutch woman hauling wood
January 2011—On January 3, we flew from Gujarat to Fort Kochi, where I began an artist residency at Kashi Art Center. I stayed in a small cottage, where there was room enough for a studio to work in for the month. With my block samples to work from, I began a series of small paintings that combined the miniature painting techniques with repeat patterns. I mixed and grinded pigments that my painting teacher had given me. I also found a local screen maker, and had several of my block patterns translated to silkscreen. I printed these myself on paper, often working over them with watercolors. I found some stamp makers, and had some stamps made of smaller patterns that I could work with on smaller drawings. I also researched traditional dhurrie patterns, and incorporated some traditional dhurrie designs into the small, minimal paintings. As well, I worked on the repeat for another block pattern.
Works in progress
February 2011—After several days spent traveling through Tamil Nadu seeing some temples, and a short trip to Auroville to see the small block print outfit they have there, as well as visit their textile NGO Upasana, we flew back to Jaipur to continue working with printers here.
Ladies in saris behind one of my blocks
The remainder of February was spent sampling and printing meterage from the existing blocks, and had one last design made into blocks. I also prepared work for a group exhibit entitled Super/Power, with 3 other Fulbright artists.
March 2011—After completing the printing and finishing of the meterage, I traveled to Goa to present a group PowerPoint presentation at a conference panel. Immediately following the conference, we flew up to Mussoorie to install our show, have an opening, and give talks at the Woodstock School Art Department classes. (More on that in the next post!)
Super/Power ladies at the airport
And thus we come to the present day!
(So much for shorter posts!)
Master dyer with some of my fabric
More print sampling!
Yet more print sampling!!!