Ajrak or Ajrakh is a unique block printed textile. It displays special traditional designs and patterns. Ajrak follows a detailed block printing technique of decorating fabrics. Generally, Ajrak is printed on both sides by resist printing method. The printing is done by hand using hand carved wooden blocks. Ajrak print is performed within a grid. Repetitive pattern creates a web-like design. Along with the web, border designs are also incorporated on the fabric. It is a long process and involves several stages of printing and washing the fabric again and again using natural dyes and moderants.
Unlike other process of printing the fabric, where color is applied directly to the cloth, in Ajrakh block printing, the fabric is first printed with a resist paste and then it is dyed. This process is repeated several times with different dyes to achieve the required pattern or design in deep hues of red and blue. Ajrak print is a modern mode in block printing. It is made with natural dyes. The entire process includes vegetable and mineral dyes. Ajrak print is an eco-friendly and sustainable craft that exists in harmony with nature. It generally consists of geometrical and floral designs.
Ajrak is a symbol of Sindhi culture and tradition. Ajrak print fabric is easy to maintain and it can be hand washed with cold water. Ajrak designs are inspired by the Mughal culture and are a magnificent depiction of age old heritage and culture. Ajrak is said to signify the universe, because of the use of color palette. A remarkable feature about ajrak printing is that, on a single fabric with same design, resist printing is combined with other dyeing techniques.
MAKING OF AJRAK
The process of making of Ajrak is laborious. Each step involves different people working towards printing and washing procedure, individually. Nature plays an important role in making Ajrak in herbal and indigenous colors. Craftsmen work together with the environment where sun, river, animals, trees and mud are part of its making. After dyeing the cloth, it is block printed to form patterns over the fabric. The cloth is dried in the sun and then it is sent for the oil treatment.
PREPARING THE BLOCK
Wood blocks used for hand block printing is generally made up of sycamore, plane and pear wood. These blocks may vary in size, but should be two or three inches thick for ease. Side edges of the wood are left and is not carved. Fine details are very difficult to cut in wood. If successfully cut, they tend to break off in printing. Since each color has a different block, it is an important task is to get the exact design in your hand before applying, while these blocks are getting ready. Once wooden blocks are ready, you can start off with printing the fabric.
MOTIFS OF AJRAK
Ajrak includes making patterns and alternating with designs and colors. Coloring and staining technique requires accurate and artistic skills. A particular block with the desired design is selected and that is followed by designing the pattern on the fabric. It involves traditional motifs being printed in red and blue dyes which are then used to adorn traditional outfits. Fresh prints beautifully done with natural dyeing colors add bliss to your garments and make you stand out on any occasion. Ajrak prints are identified by their elaborate geometric patterns. Motifs of Ajrak that are seen today are of mostly floral and animal designs, along with elephant and peacock figures.
PRESENT DAY STATUS
Ajrak prints are as fresh as springtime. Hues of red, blue and black depict sense of power and independence. Handsomely tailored Indo-western Ajrak jackets add richness to your wardrobe and something new to the season. Actual Ajrak craft is declined because modern, quicker methods of printing and chemical dyes have replaced the laborious making procedure and muted colors. Block printing on components of garments like pockets or collar add an edge to the overall look and make the garment a statement piece. Also, such prints used as patches on various products look fascinating. Hand block printing has a tremendous demand in apparel industry for sarees, suits, and dresses and also for products such as handbags etc.
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