These beautiful Jaipur block printed cottons at Rithihi resound with memories of many people. They speak of ways of life and ancestral crafts learned and passed on from generation to generation for nearly three hundred years. They remind us of the weavers, the yarn spinners, the printers, the woodblock carvers, the dye vat keepers, the dhobis… a wonderful ecosystem coming together to create textiles that delight the senses. Today, lives and ways of artisans all over the world, particularly those in India, have been changed drastically by the ongoing pandemic; We’re reminded even more strongly of these wonderful makers, their remarkable artisanal practices and ways of life centred around the crafts.
Among our favourite textiles here at Rithihi, are these Jaipur handblock printed handwoven cottons. As much as we find their colours and patterns delightful, and we love how their breezy textures are perfectly designed for the tropics, we also adore that they were made at the hands of many, many people. The chippa caste printers who stamp lengths of cotton fabric in their home workshops amidst the chatter of children, family talk, and everyday life; Father-and son pairs of hereditary carvers squatting inside their small studios, chiseling away at patterns traced onto neatly cut blocks of teak wood; each man often a mirror of the other, but a few decades apart, deeply connected through their shared craft; Families of printers standing before long tables, dipping blocks into color and stamping them on fabric—each movement leaving an image completing the textile; Dabu caste printers mixing clay, lime and fermented wheat; The dhobis standing waist-deep in water baths all day, washing the excess dyes away.
Looking at these beautiful block prints, we remember all these people. The roles that each played in the making of these fabrics are very much part of the beauty of these textiles. Today, we appreciate them more than ever before.