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Block Printed Textiles in Jaipur; Architectural Rapture in Tamil Nadu

Have you ever had your mind blown by something completely unexpected? As in, you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing, and you need to fight through the shock and excitement to make sure it is indelibly etched into your memory forever? 

 

In my case, it was on a trip to India to learn more about the hand block printing process in Jaipur. I’d been lucky enough to visit a few times before, but my focus had always been on screen printing, this time I really wanted to get more hands-on experience working with wood blocks.

 

To me, the magic of hand block printed textiles is in watching a design evolve, block by block, across a piece of fabric. Suddenly, as you connect the lines of the wood block together, you get that light bulb moment and your brain starts to fire off new ideas for new shapes and pattern. Enter floods of ideas from the riot of colour that is India, where you are of course, never short of inspirational places or spaces. Everything in India is patterned and colourful, from brightly painted floral trucks, to stunning saris and even the peacock population. BUT, there is one small town that I stumbled across in Southern India, that really takes the ‘inspo cake’.

 

Meet Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu, home to the Annamalaiyar Temple which is the centerpiece of the town and a popular pilgrimage centre. There aren’t many words to describe the buildings in this town, I mean seriously! Each building is designed and built by the families who live in them, however whilst they are responsible for all of the shapes, patterns and colour palettes, apparently the original source of the distinct architectural style is still up for debate. According to some, although the history of the town itself dates back to the ninth century, the colourful houses of the town first came into being in the 1940s and have been credited as the driving influence behind the post-modern Memphis design movement. I guess the burning question is, which came first?

Photo credits: Vincent Leroux 

Block Printing Colour India

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