Thanks for all of your encouragement with our recent story telling about Dilli Grey. I am so thrilled that you are interested in the stories about our brand and artisans. How better to kick off our story telling than with some insight into hand-block printing. This amazing technique lies at the heart of Dilli Grey and in fact the very first piece I decided to sell was a hand block printed quilt.
I have been visiting my printers for years having worked for some other brands as a Head of Buying, part of my role was to visit these places and to ensure that the processes and workplaces were ethical and that the designs were being carried our to our specifications and requirements. Every time I visit (now for Dilli Grey) it still feels like the first time and I am constantly blown away by their skill and creativity and love how I am scooped up like an old friend to join the team for a silky, bubbly, sweet cup of steaming hot chai. Like seeinng old friends the owners share their lunch time tiffin boxes too, stuffed with home made Dahl and fresh chapatis are quickly prepared with skill as a delicious accompaniment. Oh yes we were talking about hand block printing…. So here’s a little bit of history
Carried on the warm air, softly blowing through the village of Sanganer in Jaipur, the unmistakable tick tock, tick tock of chisel tapping wood can be heard as hand-block printers in workshops diligently practice their craft - applying the skills they and their families have mastered, and passed down, over centuries.
Some say that hand block printing originated around 3000 BCE whereas others point to its origins in Rajasthan about 500 years ago. Whatever the date, it is undeniable that this artisanal skill has a lengthy pedigree. Today, Jaipur and its surrounds are the home of hand-block printing and the creative epicentre of the exquisite prints we make at Dilli Grey.
Hand-block printing is a craft that is simply worlds away from the digital production lines of commercial manufacturing. This time-honoured skill is the pulse of villages like Sanganer and is, we believe, what makes our products so charming, elevating the manufacture of goods to an art form.
There are many stages to hand block printing, however, at its most essential, the process begins with the intricate carving of a wooden block to create the design for the pattern.
At Dilli Grey, our western aesthetic informs the design which we then share with our craftsmen who in turn, will delicately whittle the pattern onto the wooden block with a hammer and chisel. Depending on the complexity this process can take hours or days. I spend hours sometimes pouring over the vintage traditional designs which I then eagerly colour into my own colour palettes. I love the natural and organic shapes which appear in Rajathani art over and over again and embrace these patterns which can be seen throughout the collection along side our own modern designs.
The fabrics are then laid out in layers and the dye is carefully prepared ready for the printer. The fabric printer brings his skills of precision to bear as he lines up the block perfectly to create the pattern and to ensure an even layer of dye across the print.
Once printed, the fabric is hung to dry before then setting the dye through the discharging process where fabrics are steamed, scrubbed of excess dye and finally hung out to dry once more in the sun.
We take pride on putting a unique stamp on our Dilli Grey products which is why we revere these traditions and crafts. Why settle for the quotidian when you can be beautifully individual? Our designs have a Western aesthetic sharply in focus but these time-honoured Eastern skills ensure that each piece tells its own very special story.
And what’s more, as you savour your Dilli Grey moment you can take joy in knowing that you are supporting the continuation of traditional skills that we must treasure lest they disappear from this increasingly fleeting world.
I hope you enjoyed this little insight, I’m compiling some more stories the next one will be hand embroidery but let me know if there is anything else you would like to hear more about.