Department of Handicrafts

Who’s heard of paper made from cotton and silk? We hadn’t, but a friend mentioned that there are factories in a nearby town called Sanganer that are famous for handmade paper, block printing and ceramics. During our travels, we’ve really enjoyed our visits to factories (e.g., silk and tea factories). Sanganer is located 16 km south of Jaipur. We paid it a visit this week.

TREELESS PAPER 

The handmade paper factory that we visited buys leftover fabric from a South Indian vest factory and sells mostly to the North American market. It  produces cards, gift wrap, small bags, holiday stars and other decorations. The factory employs 300 to 400 men and women who earn a daily salary of 300 Rupees (approximately CAD 6.00) for an eight-hour shift. People seemed genuinely happy to work there. Factory workers led us through the paper making-process.

Throw the cotton into a slurry and chop into pulp…

 
 

Add vegetable-based dyes…

  

Spread the pulp in sheets. Stack…



 

Squeeze water out of the paper…

 

Press once dry
 

And the final product is ready. 

 

The paper is beautiful. Colourful, sometimes with bits of flower.

  

We often receive these bags at stores in North America; few of us probably realize that someone has folded and assembled the bags by hand.

  

SANGANERI BLOCK PRINTING

In Sanganer, the technique for block printing textiles with delicate patterns and vibrant colours developed in the 16th or 17th century. The printing blocks are hand cut and can be extremely elaborate (photo below is not mine).

   

There are currently more than 300 micro, small and medium sized printing enterprises in Sanganer, employing approximately 3,000 artisans. The town received a Protected Geographical Indication in 2010 to preserve the reputation and quality of its block printing work.

Ida and Saga tried their hands with the blocks.  

 

Meanwhile, one of the artisans completed a table cloth print (see below). Often the blocks are integrated: the first block has the floral design in light purple, almost a pink; the next block adds gold to the interior of the flowers; the final block adds a deeper purple to the flowers. It’s remarkable. Many of the block print artisans have been working for more than 30 years; they are able to place the blocks so accurately that the viewer feels like the beautiful images are the result of a single, multi-coloured massive block that fits the entire textile. 

 

The block printing site also creates ceramics. Here we got a sense of how some of the designs on the our mugs and vases are hand-painted. Similar to the block print artisans, the ceramics artists have been working their trade for decades. They can confidently sketch intricate patterns freehand. 

  
Our friend Sania, who joined us on the visit, put it well when she said “hats off to all such artists who give their lives to anonymous creativity”. 

 

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