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Ajrakh – the beautiful world of block printed cloth

By Debbie Bamford, SDC member and trustee

On 19th May 2016 SDC organised an International Day, attended by SDC regional representatives from around the world. SDC was honoured to be presented with a book and scarf by Dr Ela M Dedhia to celebrate 10 years of SDC EC in India.

The shawl is Ajrakh – printed with wood blocks and the book is Ajrakh Impressions and Expressions by Ela herself and Ms Manju Hundekar.

photo-07-10-2016-11-11-27Both are beautiful!

Ajrakh is a unique and highly skilled form of block printed cloth, once common in parts of India.

Reading the book helps to understand the work that has gone into the making of the shawl and the different styles and areas working with this technique. It is dyed with cutch, madder and iron/tannin on a fine soft cotton.

From 5000 B.C.E. onwards there is evidence of Indian textiles and their trade with other civilisations. Cotton seeds and madder dyed cloth have been found in the excavations at Mohenjo Daro in the Indus valley and many Indian textiles have been found as far away as Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.

photo-07-10-2016-11-11-08The book covers the history of textiles in India, the different techniques used in the different districts, for example the double ikat silks (resist – dyed cloths) of Gujarat and Orissa. Information on the commonest natural dyes used and includes some recipes for making your own dyed cloth. The wealth of information and imagery in the book is very inspiring – traditional dyeing and printing styles, Ajrakh yesterday and today… the future for this technique is looking very bright!

Both items are available to see at SDC’s Perkin House Head Office in Bradford, UK.

Ajrakh Impressions and Expressions by Dr Ela Dedhia & Ms M Hundekar 2008 Mumbai ColourPublications Private Ltd ISBN 81-902594-2-3

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