Our partner for printing silk scarves is Meeta. For about thirty years she has been initiating projects to help artisans in India find work.
Many artisans in India live structurally below the subsistence level. The large-scale industrialization of the textile sector has sidelined them. Their artisanal, sustainable way of working is thousands of years old and has always been the binding agent between communities. Meeta helps maintain this and has been working with the people of the Chhipa community for over 25 years.
Making the wooden block
Before the block printer can get to work, the woodcarver must make the stamp. With meticulous precision he carves the contours of the design from a piece of teak wood. According to him, he makes the "filler", the pressure block of the design that later serves to apply a clay paste that does not allow paint to penetrate.
(wooden printing block for the print on our silk scarves)
The Chippa community makes all of its vegetable dyes itself. They are taken care of every day. Indigo in particular needs constant attention. The mixture in which the plant Indigofera tinctoria ferments must be kept at the right temperature and stirred regularly. Myrobalan, or Cherry Plum, is a yellow dye but also works as a natural fixative.
The work of the block printer
The block printer starts by printing the outline of the design on the unpainted side. Then follows a dye bath. The fabric dries in the sun for round two. With the second block, the printer applies a paste of a very special clay, gum and lime. The clay comes from the bottom of a river where insects excrete a substance by eating wheat. Exactly that substance makes the perfect mixture: it is easy to wash out, but it does retain the paint.
The fabric is dyed and dried a second time. The clay paste also dries and can be scraped off the fabric. When everything has been washed well, the fabric is ready for the tailor to make scarves.
Special floral design
The design is by visual artist Antoinette Leune. She lives and works in Oosterbeek. Her paintings, especially of zoomed-in details of native flora, are colorful and powerful. For this scarf, the choice fell on the seed pods of the Spring balsam, or the Himalayan balsam, a plant that came here via India. A real Via India plant.
The charm of imperfection
Everything about the scarves is 100% handmade. Also the silk itself. You can read this in the blog about Madhulika's silk farm. As a result, they do not have the regularity of machine-made scarves. There may be traces of manual work, small splashes and lines. As far as we are concerned, these imperfections are the charm of handmade.
The proceeds from the scarves end up well: both Meeta and Madhulika reinvest the profit they make back into the community.