The Bedrock of Printed Crafts

Art history/ Historiography, Crafts, Handlooms, Art

The Bedrock of Printed Crafts: Block-makers of Pethapur

Sethi, Dr. Ritu

India has been renowned for its printed textiles since millennia. Accounts of travelers, writers and poets have extolled the brilliance of its colors and patterns and its value as a trade good traversing the Silk Road and maritime routes to markets across the world. This continues to be true as the array and variety of hand printed textiles continues to be quite literally mind-boggling. The multiplicity of traditions and techniques and profusion of design vocabularies and forms has but one thing in common - the wood carved block used to imprint the pattern. This even in these technologically evolving times continues to be the very bedrock of the craft of hand-block printed textiles The skilled carvers of these blocks are usually located in geographic proximity to the printer community; this close-knit synergy of mutual dependencies has long linked both professions. Yet when tasked with a complex print assignment requiring just that extra detail and finish the printers seek out the perfect block, for this they need to make the long trek to a small quiet overgrown village in the heart of Gujarat – Pethapur. The mastery in Pethapur is a well-kept secret in the textile world. Its exceptionality also lying in the fact that there is no local printing activity conducted here. This was not always the case and we are fortunate that unlike other oral traditions the 1961 Census tracks the history of change and metamorphosis over the past century. According to the Census, Pethapur’s rise to fame can be credited to one Tribhovan Khushal. In the early 1800’s this enterprising bl...
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