The thing that first hits you as you enter the Udyog Kala Kendra (which translates to Industrial Arts Center) block printing unit, is the smell of hot wax and the fact that there is a surprising amount of sand everywhere. And that has nothing to do with the fact that the sea is a few metres away! The wax and sand are what makes the hand block printing and painting batik technique so unique. Ziabhai started and runs this Batik printing unit where he uses wooden blocks and wax to create stunning designs!
Batik is a resist-dye printing technique which involves waxing a part of the cloth and then dyeing it. The waxed part keeps its original color, and the contrast between the dyed and undyed part gives the pattern. Wooden blocks are dipped into hot wax and printed on cloth. The cloth is then dyed and dewaxed (process of removing the wax), and then reprinted if the design requires a second color. Some designs are more intricate and are painted in with wax by women artisans. All the printing and painting is done on tables covered with a thick layer of sand which keeps the surface level but not rigid. The history of Indian Batik can be traced as far back as 2000 years!
Zia tells us about his journey, “We started off in 1996 by renting this place and had only two tables. Over the years we have acquired 8 more Batik tables, and three tables for Bagru printing. We combine printing techniques from different parts of India with Batik and Bagru pieces and stitch them together to make unique stoles.” Bagru is a traditional block printing technique from Rajasthan in which artisans smear the cloth with Fuller’s earth got from the riverside and then dip it in turmeric water to get the beige colored background. After that, they stamp the cloth with beautiful designs using natural dyes of earthy shades. Over the years the natural dyes have been replaced by chemical ones.
If this isn’t enough incentive to visit Zia’s workshop to see this fascinating process, then perhaps the hot dosas with fresh coconut chutney his wife makes, will do the trick!