Mud in India effortlessly conjures up the strength of our roots, mystery of India’s topographic treasury, and we take immense pride in sharing with you that our textile legacy at Gulabchand is seated in resplendence of this very Indian mud amongst many other nature sourced wonders from our motherland.
Daboo handprinting technique has been a muse for fabric visionaries across the globe owing to this historic Indian craft’s exhaustive production process at a cultural intersection of ecology,social milieu, Indian ethnic sensibilities and now a global wonderment and modern silhouettes appropriation.
Allow us give you a textual tour of this historic textile art’s birthing.
Intensive, exhaustive and expansive, the Daboo printing’s procedural organisation necessitates a clear separation of what creative labour each artisan shall commit to till the culmination of the final textile.
The mill acquired fabric post being carefully washed for impurity removal sees a careful hand printing journey ensue with eccentric motifs and designs imprinted on the fabric using wooden blocks drenched in fast dyes.
The rigour follows a mindfully executed sun drying time for the fabric with a dip in the vat of dye and yet again some solitary sun drying.
Muddy yet Un-muddled:
Potters’ clay, procured from dried up lake beds in summer, wheat powder, gum and lime added to water in shallow stone bowls with the artisans mixing it with their feet is how this heritage craft’s journey starts.
Mesmerised is a spectator who sees artisans swivel and scrape, in a rhythmic melody and ritualistic merry-making of his own body and the paraphernalia!
After a thorough mix, the mud is sieved through fine muslin cloth.
The blocks used for mud printing are distinguished from ones used for pigment imprinting with the carving being deeper and with lesser finesse, lest it clogs up with the mud. Post printing, the mud is smeared with sawdust for absorbing the moisture and to inhibit any smudging.
Pinned down with stones, the fabric is then left to dry.
The indigo vat is generally 10 feet deep with foam on top generally seen as symbolic of a healthy vat.
To deter excessive mud from coming off, the printed fabric is not wet in water before but is gently submerged flat in it.
Thereafter, it is removed and held over the vat so that excess liquid drips off and is then sun dried.
As all the steps of printing and dyeing culminate, the fabric is soaked in warm water for a few hours for softening the mud. What further amplifies the rigor is rubbing and slapping it against stone slabs to remove the mud, before rinsing and drying the textile in making.
Overprinting the finished fabric with red, blue, gold too is often opted for befitting the designer’s vision that to add depth and highlights to the visual appeal of the fabric.
Colors and dyes:
Traditionally dabu prints have been made with natural dyes like kashish for greys and browns and indigo for blue colour , as well as yellows and reds derived from fruits like pomegranate.
Today a wider array of color options are available to the artisans since they are increasingly entailing synthetic dyes as well in the production process along with a continued us of the vegetable dyes. Fabrics can also be dyed more than once, creating vivid imageries with a double dabu and triple dabu effect.
Allure of mother nature’s flora and fauna through motifs of peacocks, mangoes, leaves, cornstalks (called boota), sunflower (surajmukhi) and animal inspired prints with its uniquely executed hand printing technique is what distinguishes Daboo from the other hand block printing techniques. Also motifs such as abstract shapes, dots and wavy lines too are often ingeniously printed on the fabric and it’s common to note mud paste cracking and leaking, hence creating a vein like effect seen in Batik print.
Alas, ubiquitous challenges of commercial viability haven’t left even this artform untouched and recent shifts to digital printing and Western inspired aesthetics in garments have taken a toll on Daboo printing’s ability to access India’s masses.
Yet, we are assured that Gulabchand’s unflinching efforts to commit to sustain the Indian textiles’ resplendence and livelihoods of the indigenous craftsmen and your faith in our workmanship is one potent means to keep thriving as active supporters of Indian regional heritage and crafts.
(Authored by – Vandana Bhatia )