I have visited many cities in India – each equally unique and enchanting as the next one. However, the one city that really enthralled me was Jaipur – the pink city, fondly called. Full of beautiful pink buildings and living up to its name, Jaipur radiated a kind of elegance that is tough to find elsewhere. However, while heading to Jaipur, I had quite a notoriously eventful experience. It comes down to this – If you’re a foreign woman in India, chances are you’re going to garner more (often unwanted) attention than your boyfriend or parents have ever given you in your entire life. As an obvious out-of-towner in this enormous country, the greatest challenge is being able to navigate through an exotic culture of contradictions — nearly nothing seems to be or be done as it is back home. However, living in India for quite some time now, I have finally come to realize that most attention is harmless, and the journey is a lot easier once you learn how to make peace with all eyes being on you.
After a strenuous 10-hour train journey, I was finally excited to have reached Jaipur. As the train doors opened, I took a deep breath and readied myself for adventure. My host greeted me on the platform and right outside of my train cabin there was Mr. Shri Gulabrai Khatri, the owner of the artisan enterprise that I specifically traveled to see. After walking out of the train station, I began my first exposure to the CRAZY streets of the bustling city. Loud rumbling motors, constant honking and steady flows of traffic coming and going in ALL directions - cars, buses, motorbikes, camels, cows, goats, rickshaws, women, men and children – all firmly establishing their right to the road. I loved it!
Jaipur is famous for its fabric, and one should definitely make it a point to see how these fabrics are colored and printed. I was lucky enough to have seen the long and traditional process, which is done using only natural dyes! The enterprise, which was established in 1943 by the late Assumal Khatri, Shri Gulabrai Khatri’s father, mostly focused on block-printed and screen-printed textiles. In 1947, when the historic partition of India took place, the family opted to shift to India – where they had to relocate their business taking an immense and painstaking amount of time and effort to get the factories back into production – instead of staying in Pakistan. The family had a strong passion to revive the dying art of block printing and screen-printing, by creating an ethical enterprise that produced only handmade products using environmentally friendly dyes.
One particular design that caught my eye was the “Mandala” design. A mandala is a circular figure and it is seen on most of the fabrics from this enterprise. They contain intricate designs and are a treat for the eyes, which is probably why people hang them up everywhere!
Before the actual screen-printing process begins, the raw material that is used to make the tapestry is dipped into a vegan dye, through a machine.
The raw material is then cut into a long straight line and hung outside on bamboos to dry.
The making of the screens involves a process in which you get the design printed on a transparent stencil sheet.
Once the screen is burned with the design, the fabric is pinned down to a tabletop, the ink is pushed through the screen with a squeegee to transfer the design onto the fabric, and the fabric is left outside to dry.
Often, the process takes two people – one who handles the printing and one who assists in moving the screen and placing it in the appropriate place.
The correct color is gently wiped through the screen, which has been blocked except for the places that the color should go through on to the silk fabric. Screening is repeated until all of the screens for a particular pattern have been used, and the final design on the fabric has been achieved.
Screen printed fabric, just like block printed fabric, can sometimes contain small mistakes or stray spots, making each garment truly one of a kind. One color is printed at a time, so several screens can be used to produce a multi-colored image or design.
After the screen-printing process, and once the tapestry is completely dry, they are then taken to the washing area where their employees wash the tapestries in water filled with turmeric powder that changes the color. This helps keep the colors intact and get the tapestry back to its original pattern and design.
Once the tapestries are washed, they are hung on bamboos again to dry. The end-result is absolutely breathtaking. It is mesmerizing to watch the entire process of a mandala tapestry being made from conception to the final masterpiece:
Overall, I was very fortunate to be able to witness, appreciate and document how people still use their hands to make beautiful crafts in a place where the techniques and design motifs are used and imprinted into the material to tell such an enchanting story.
The design of the mandala is supposed to be a calming influence on the mind, so much so that irritating thoughts are unable to get through, allowing the mind to take a break whilst encouraging the creative juices to flow so one can run free (I am already in the midst of hanging these tapestries all around my house!). There are many reasons why people believe in this. A representation of wholeness and a notion that the world extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds is something people can relate to on a spiritual level.
These beautiful pieces are multi-purposeful; they are wall hangings, beach throws, picnic towels, etc. We also make them in a duvet set with matching pillowcases. Currently we are displaying and offering these masterpieces at Towson Town Center in Towson Town Mall as well as via our affiliates in our affiliate program, of which you can be a part of too! If you’d love to buy these tapestries or become an affiliate, you should go to www.lusinia.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.