Jaipur – Anokhi and Block printing factories
Today is Arts and Handicrafts day – a day tailored around developing our knowledge of local printing techniques and manufacturing, in a bid to incorporate and embrace some of these skills in my upcoming collection.
We begin at the Anokhi Factory on the outskirts of Jaipur. An experience organized by Vicky Singh, the sister of one of mum’s friends who had put the whole itinerary together for our entire trip, including personal touches like this one. Anokhi was set up by Faith, a friend of Vicky’s so we very lucky to be able to see inside the hive of creative activity.
Set on a self-sustaining farm, the Anokhi organization employs over 300 local people as well as using local villages for their bulk production of printing and manufacturing. All the detailing, quality control, pattern cutting, sampling, designing and packaging is done in house and there is an everlasting snake of rooms that take you from one skill set to another. Each room is decorated with endless rolls of printed fabric, which in turn are set off by the exquisite saris of the women who cut, sew and print them.
Their eco friendly, employee supporting, meticulous set-up is frankly inspirational and leaves me with a desire to set up camp in India and work with these hugely talented communities myself – maybe one day.
Following a delicious Indian tapas style lunch with Rachel, the current creative director we headed back to Jaipur with Vicky and Kan Singh to our next stop – a block-printing factory in the old part of the city.
Now you couldn’t create a stronger contrast in premises if you tried harder. The sanctuary of Anokhi was a world away from the carnage of the Old Town and through Vicky’s local knowledge and fluent Hindi tongue we eventually managed to find the spot. Located on the 3rd floor of a derelict / under construction building, this “established” printing house hosted 12 x 5 meter tables, which lived precariously under crumbling roofs, propped up by tree trunks.
Dozens of shelves teaming with colorful fabric dye and inks and their wooden printing block companions lined the walls and finished lengths of fabric hung from and over every post, hook and spare table. It created a scene of astonishing, unexpected, yet contradicting beauty.
The house literally looked like a bomb had come through the middle the day before and the workers had not even batted an eyelid and just carried on with their tasks for the day. This raw, unfinished edifice was the creative epicenter of some of Jaipur’s most exquisite fabrics.