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1.1 Hand Block Printing

Block printing is believed to have originated
in China towards early 3rd century. Records
of its presence in Egypt and some Asian
countries were also found around the 4th
century, from where it spread to Europe and
other places. Apart from wood, blocks were
made of metals and porcelain also. But
wooden block remains the most sought after
apart from metal ones which has gained
popularity in recent times. In hand block
printing, the design is first drawn on wood
using a sharp needle and then the desired design is carved using the chisel, hammer, file, nails etc. The
printing involves laying the cloth/fabric, which is to be printed, on flat tables and impressions are made
using the beautifully carved blocks. In case of direct printing, the block is dipped in the colored dye and
impressions are made. In case of resist dyeing, impression of an impermeable material (clay, resin, wax
etc) is made on the fabric which is then dyed in the desired shade. The block image remains un printed
and reappears in reverse. Traditionally natural and vegetable sources were used for dyes. But with the
advent of synthetic dyes, things have changed, not necessarily for good. The ease of usage and the
availability of synthetic dyes have replaced the vegetable dye in many cases.

1.2 Block Printing In India

India has been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton cloth since the 12th century and the craft
flourished as the fabric received royal patronage. Though the earliest records mention the printing centers
in the south, the craft seems to have been prevalent all over India. The earliest centers for block printing
seem to have been located in what are now the states of Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.


From these centers, the craft appears to have spread gradually with the migration of craft workers to other
areas. Centers such as Bagru, Sanganer and Pipar in Rajasthan rose to prominence in the 18th century.
Other centers such as Serampur developed even later, becoming the hub of block printing in West Bengal
only in the 1940s. Now, there is the increasing phenomenon of block printing units being set up in urban
areas including Calcutta and Jaipur city.

Block printing is practiced in many different geographical regions of India with each area having its own
particular local aesthetic. The main centers where block printing is practiced are:

1. Andhra Pradesh:

Hyderabad, Machalipattnam (Kalamkari)*

2. Gujarat:

Ahmedabad (Pethapur), Kutch, Porbandar, Rajkot

3. Rajasthan:

Bagru, Chittroli, Sanganer, Jaipur, Jodhpur

4. Madhya Pradesh:

Bagh, Behrongarh, Indore, Mandsar, Burhanpur

5. Uttar Pradesh:

Benares (Block-makers), Farrukabad, Pilakhuan

(Block- makers)

6. West Bengal:

Calcutta, Serampur

Each of these regions traditionally had distinct design elements with unique color schemes and motifs.
Although the commercialization of the craft has seen a convergence in design elements between the
various regions, block printed fabric by expert craft workers from each of these regions are still identifiable
by its region of origin.


1.3 Different Techniques of Hand Block printing

1. Discharge Printing: Firstly the fabric on which printing is to be done is dyed. The dye is removed
from the part of fabric on which designs are to be made by use of a chemical. Then those segments
printed are treated so that they can be re-colored.
2. Direct Block Printing: The fabric used here is either cotton or silk. The cloth is first bleached,
and then dyed with the desired color. After that block printing is done on borders with carved
wooden blocks then inside the borders.
3. Resist Printing: In this technique the part of the cloth which is not to be dyed is covered with the
paste of resin and clay. Then the fabric is dyed with the desirable color, at this stage the dye
penetrates through the cracks which create wavy effect of colors on the cloth. After this the fabric
is finally block printed.
Rich and colorful prints can be created through block printing. In olden times it was done with natural
dyes but now it is done with artificial colors and synthetic dyes. The colors commonly used for printing
are saffron, yellow, blue and red. The wooden blocks are used for printing. They are of different shapes
and have designs carved at the bottom of the block. Teak wood is used for making them on which designs
are made by skilled craftsman. These blocks are known as Bunta. Every block consists of a wooden
handle and 2-3 holes which are made for the purpose of free movement of air. The blocks before taken
into use are kept in oil for 10-15 days, which provide them the softness required.


2.1 History of Block Printing In India

Records show that as far back as the 12th century, several centers in the south, on the western and eastern
coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton. On the southeastern coast the brush or
kalam (pen) was used, and the resist applied by the same method. In the medieval age printing and dyeing
of cottons was specially developed in Rajasthan. In Gujarat the use of wooden blocks for printing was
more common. Tents were made from printed fabrics and soon they became necessary part of royal
processions. The seasons largely influenced the integration of the highly creative processes of weaving,
spinning, dyeing and printing. Festivals also dictated this activity. Block printing is a special form of
printing first developed in China. The earliest known example with an actual date is a copy of the Diamond
Sutra from 868 A.D (currently in the British Museum), though the practice of block printing is probably
about two thousand years old Trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon
from Buddha's time. Printed and woven cloths traveled to Indonesia, Malaya and the Far East. In the 17th
century, Surat was established as a prominent center for export of painted and printed calicos, covering
an extensive range in quality. Cheaper printed cloth came from Ahmedabad and other centers, and
strangely enough Sanganer was not such a famous center for printing as it is today. Printing process The


first step in block printing is the production of the original document. This is laid on a large, smooth
wooden block and fixed into place, reversed. Next, craftsmen of various skill levels, ranging from master
carvers for the fine work to less talented artisans for cheaper blocks or less important sections, carve the
original painted, drawn or written image into the block of wood. The block can now be covered with ink
and used in a press to create duplicates of the original. In some ways block printing is superior to cast type
or moveable type -- for a language such as Chinese which has a very broad character set, block prints are
much cheaper to produce for the initial run. The process also allows greater artistic freedom, such as the
easy inclusion of pictures and diagrams. However, printing blocks are not very durable, and deteriorate
very rapidly with use, requiring constant replacement that limits the possibility of large-scale print runs.
Printing blocks can, however, be made from a variety of materials such as wood, linoleum, rubber, or even

2.2 Block Printing In Various Regions of India

Block Printing in Gujarat: In Gujarat, this form of hand Printing has been practiced and perpetuated by
the Paithapur families. They make intricate blocks, and print their textiles using the mud resist-Printing
method. These prints are called Sodagiri (trader) prints. In Kutch, the popular patterns are black and red
designs of birds, animals, and dancing girls. The saris of Ahmedabad and Baroda have large mango
patterns against a red or blue background. The other well-known centers for block printing in Gujarat are
Bhavnagar, Vasna, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Jetpur and Porbandar. Dhamadka a village in Gujarat has many
printers using mostly madder root for printing red color, rusty iron solution for black color and indigo for
blue color. These fabrics are known as Ajrakh. The designs made by block printing are geometric. Many
states have block-printing workshops using chemical dyes. However there are only small pockets of areas
still using natural dyeing with age-old recipes and local plant material.
Block Printing in Rajasthan: From Gujarat, the art of block Printing spread to Rajasthan. Here colorful
prints of birds, animals, human figures, gods and goddesses are popular. The important centers are Jaipur,
Bagru, Sanganer, Pali and Barmer. Sanganer is famous for its Calico printed bed covers, quilts and saris.
In form of hand Printing are Calico Printing, the outlines are first printed, and then the color is filled in.
Bold patterns and colors are popular. They are printed repeatedly in diagonal rows. Doo Rookhi Printing
is also famous here. In this technique, artists print on both sides of the cloth. Bagru is famous for its Syahi-


Begar prints and Dabu prints. The former are designs in a combination of black and yellow ochre or cream.
The latter are prints in which portions are hidden from the dye by applying a resist paste. Barmer is known
for its prints of red chilies with blue-black outlines, surrounded by flower-laden trees. The other famous
prints are of horses, camels, peacocks and lions, called Sikar and Shekahawat prints.
Block Printing in Punjab: The block printing from Punjab is not as famous as its Rajasthani counterpart,
but is still merit worthy. It was the art of a group of textile workers called Chhimba. The designs were
usually floral and geometrical. Today, traditional designs have been displaced, and vegetable dyes have
been replaced by chemical ones. The colors are light and pastel. The motifs are usually mangoes, peacocks
and nets.
Block Printings of Andhra Pradesh: In Andhra Pradesh, the block printing method is applied in the
creation of the exquisite Kalamkari Printing. The two major centers of Kalamkari art are Sri Kalahasti and
Masulipatnam. Masuliputnam in Andhra Pradesh is the main center of block printing where the fabric is
known as Kalamkari. The cloth used generally is mill made cotton, which is first bleached with cow dung
and placed in the sun. The next step is to soak the cloth in a mixture of Myrobalan and milk. The
Myrobalan contains tannic acid and acts as a mordant helping the dyestuffs to bond with the fiber. The
buffalo milk, having high fat content, helps prevent the dye from running. Then the black outline is printed
using a solution made with rusty iron soaked in sugar water and bran for several weeks. When the solution
comes in contact with the Myrobalan it turns black. The next step is printing by mordant, alum. This bonds
the red dye, Madder Root, after boiling, to the areas that receive the alum. These steps continue until all
colours have been printed or brushed on. It is crucial to have a good water supply for washing after
printing. It takes weeks to complete all these steps.


2.3 Method and Equipment used in Hand Block printing

This process, though considered by some to be the most artistic, is the earliest, simplest and slowest of all
methods of printing. The blocks may be made of box, lime, holly, sycamore, plane or pear wood, the latter
three being most generally employed. They vary in size considerably, but must always be between two
and three inches thick, otherwise they are liable to warping, which is additionally guarded against by
backing the wood chosen
with two or more pieces
of cheaper wood, such as
deal or pine. The several




tongued and grooved to

fit each other, and are



together, under pressure,

into one solid block with
the grain of each alternate
piece running in a different direction. The block, being planned quite smooth and perfectly flat, next has
the design drawn upon, or transferred to it. This latter is effected by rubbing off, upon its flat surface, a
tracing in lampblack and oil, of the outlines of the masses of the design. The portions to be left in relief
are then tinted, between their outlines, an
ammoniacal carmine or magenta, for the
purpose of distinguishing them from those
portions that have to be cut away. As a
separate block is required for each distinct
color in the design, a separate tracing must
be made of each and transferred (or put on
as it a termed) to its own special block.
Having thus received a tracing of the
pattern the block is thoroughly damped and
kept in this condition by being covered
with wet cloths during the whole process of

cutting. The block cutter commences by carving out the wood around the heavier masses first, leaving the
finer and more delicate work until the last so as to avoid any risk of injuring it during the cutting of the
coarser parts. When large masses of color occur in a pattern, the corresponding parts on the block are
usually cut in outline, the object being filled in between the outlines with felt, which not only absorbs the
color better, but gives a much more even impression than it is possible to obtain with a large surface of
wood. When finished, the block presents the appearance of flat relief carving, the design standing out like
letterpress type. Fine details are very difficult to cut in wood, and, even when successfully cut, wear down
very rapidly or break off in printing. They are therefore almost invariably built up in strips of brass or
copper, bent to shape and driven edgewise into the flat surface of the block. This method is known as
coppering, and by its means many delicate little forms, such as stars, rosettes and fine spots can be printed,
which would otherwise be quite impossible to produce by hand or machine block printing. Frequently,
too, the process of coppering is used for the purpose of making a mold, from which an entire block can be
made and duplicated as often as desired, by casting. In this case the metal strips are driven to a
predetermined depth into the face of a piece of lime-wood cut across the grain, and, when the whole design
is completed in this way, the block is placed, metal face downwards in a tray of molten type-metal or
solder, which transmits sufficient heat to the inserted portions of the strips of copper to enable them to
carbonize the wood immediately in contact with them and, at the same time, firmly attaches itself to the
outstanding portions. When cold a slight tap with a hammer on the back of the limewood block easily
detaches the cake of the type-metal or alloy and along with it, of course, the strips of copper to which it is
firmly soldered, leaving a matrix, or mold, in wood of the original design. The casting is made in an alloy
of low melting-point, anti, after cooling, is filed or ground until all its projections are of the same height
and perfectly smooth, after which it is screwed on to a wooden support and is ready for printing. Similar
molds are also made by burning out the lines of the pattern with a red-hot steel punch, capable of being
raised or lowered at will, and under which the block is moved about by hand along the lines of the pattern.
In addition to the engraved block, a printing table and color sieve are required. The table consists of a
stout framework of wood or iron supporting a thick slab of stone varying in size according to the width of
cloth to be printed. Over the stone table top a thick piece of woolen printers blanket is tightly stretched to
supply the elasticity necessary to give the block every chance of making a good impression on the cloth.
At one end, the table is provided with a couple of iron brackets to carry the roll of cloth to be printed and,
at the other, a series of guide rollers, extending to the ceiling, are arranged for the purpose of suspending
and drying the newly printed goods. The color sieve consists of a tub (known as the swimming tub) half

filled with starch paste, On the surface of which floats a frame covered at the bottom with a tightly
stretched piece Of mackintosh or oiled calico. On this the color sieve proper, a frame similar to, the last
but covered with fine woolen cloth, is placed, and forms when in position a sort of elastic color trough
over the bottom of which the color is spread evenly with a brush.
The modus operandi of printing is as follows: The printer commences by drawing a length of cloth,
from the roll, over the table, and marks it with a piece of colored chalk arid a ruler to indicate where the
first impression of the block is to be applied. He then applies his block in two different directions to the
color on the sieve and finally presses it firmly and steadily on the cloth, ensuring a good impression by
striking it smartly on the back with a wooden mallet. The second impression is made in the same way, the
printer taking care to see that it fits exactly to the first, a point which he can make sure of by means of the
pins with which the blocks are provided at each corner and which are arranged in such a way that when
those at the right side or at the top of the block fall upon those at the left side or the bottom of the previous
impression the two printings join up exactly and continue the pattern without a break. Each succeeding
impression is made in precisely the same manner until the length of cloth on the table is fully printed.
When this is done it is wound over the drying rollers, thus bringing forward a fresh length to be treated
similarly. If the pattern contains several colors the cloth is usually first printed throughout with one, then
dried, re-wound and printed with the second, the same operations being repeated until all the colors are
printed. Many modifications of block printing have been tried from time to time, but of these only two
tobying and rain bowing are of any practical value. The object of Tobey printing is to print the several
colors of a multicolor pattern at one operation and for this purpose a block with the whole of the pattern
cut upon it, and a specially constructed color sieve are employed. The sieve consists of a thick block of
wood, on one side of which a series of compartments are hollowed out, corresponding roughly in shape,
size and position to the various
objects cut on the block. The tops of





compartments are then coated with

melted pitch, and a piece of fine
woolen cloth is stretched over the
whole and pressed well down on the
pitch so as to adhere firmly to the top
of each wall; finally a piece of string

soaked in pitch is cemented over the woolen cloth along the lines of the dividing walls, and after boring a
hole through the bottom of each compartment the sieve is ready for use. In operation each compartment
is filled with its special color through a pipe connecting it with a color box situated at the side of the sieve
and a little above it, so as to exert just sufficient pressure on the color to force it gently through the woolen
cloth, but not enough to cause it to overflow its proper limits, formed by the pitch-soaked string boundary
lines. The block is then carefully pressed on the sieve, and, as the different parts of its pattern fall on
different parts of the sieve, each takes up a certain color that it transfers to the cloth in the usual way. By
this method of tobying from two to six colors may be printed at one operation, but it is obvious that it is
only applicable to patterns where the different colored objects are placed at some little distance apart, and
that, therefore, it is of but limited application. Block printing by hand is a slow process~ it is, however,
capable of yielding highly artistic results, some of which are unobtainable by any other means, and it is,
therefore, still largely practiced for the highest class of work in certain styles.

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2.4 Evolution, Turning Point and Current Status

Prior to the 1950s, hand block printing was an art that also served the needs of mass consumption. Printing
is a family tradition and every member contributes to the process. Social customs, natural surroundings
and weather requirements guided the nature of mass consumed items (utility market), while royal choices
of the Jaipur Estate led to the production of the exquisite. The production process was supported by all
required infrastructure, including the social safety net of a traditional economy that ensured sales and took
care of the social and economic contingencies of the printers. As an art form it was also patronized by the
Royal family.

This age-old production process got disturbed with mechanization and monetization of the village
economy. The mechanised production of textiles, with outputs cheaper and remarkably similar to blockprinted ones, deprived the artisans of much of the utility market. Furthermore, the availability of cheaper
factory made raw materials (e.g. grey cloth, chemical colours, etc.) led to the replacement of local raw
material base by inputs from factories disjoint to the local economy. Finally, monetary guarantees rapidly
replaced the previous system of barter, backed by social guarantee.

In the changed scenario, the supply of raw materials became conditional to monetary resources, artisans
got more distanced from final consumers (having lost their local utility market), and the social safety net
got eroded. In the ensuing shake out, only a few printers emerged as successful traders or trade-cumprinters. Many were reduced to printer-job workers or marginalized to wage earners. Some left this activity
all together. The loss of confidence and declining business prospects for those artisans who continued to
compete unsuccessfully with mechanised printing for the utility market, led to price war within and
resulted in rapid erosion of trust within the printers community. Within the families, the younger
generation, comparatively more literate, began to search for clean and more lucrative jobs. During the
same time, a specialized exporter/boutique owner community started to emerge. Their main preoccupation
was to market finished products either to buyers abroad or to the high-end domestic market. The exporters
would negotiate deals through importing agents in New Delhi, Jaipur or Mumbai. The high-end domestic
market was targeted through boutiques in the metropolitan areas. The exporters and the boutique owners
were able to recapture some of the market intelligence that was lost by the printers during the transition
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from local to national and international markets. However, only a few printers got linked with these
specialized exporter/boutique owners, and got a feeling of this new age market intelligence.

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3.1 Block Printing In Rajasthan

The desert state of Rajasthan, famed for its palaces, forts, jewels and crafts is also a center for a flourishing
technique of hand printing fabric. Hand block printing, the earliest, and the slowest of all printing
techniques gives a result so fine and so exquisite that it is unobtainable through machine printing.
Often the printed fabric is embellished with thread work embroidery, inlaid with mirrors, and sometimes
gold brocade. The resultant effect is colorful and dazzling. It is one of the top recognized textile crafts of
India, hugely in demand within the country and abroad. Different regions in Rajasthan have their own
techniques, color schemes and designs. Whether it is used to ornament odhnis, saris, bed linen, furnishings,
religious paintings or Phads, the printed and embroidered fabric is versatile and ever popular.

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Sanganer and Bagru are traditionally the places where block printing with vegetable dyes is still practiced
according to traditional techniques. The printers of Sanganer, near Jaipur, use a unique small stylized
flowery motif. The print famously called Sanganeri is normally patterned with small sunflower, lotus and
rose florets or stylized rudraksh seeds in soft subtle pastel shades on a white background. Sometimes up
to five colors are simultaneously used. The popularity of the fine hand block print has catapulted Sanganer
to becoming an export hub of the fabric. Quilts and bedspreads with Sanganeri prints are a popular tourist
shopping choice. On the other hand, in the village of Bagru block printers use red, black and beige colors.
Blue, traditionally from indigo is also sometimes used as in the Chaubundi print. The earthy motifs are
simple, circular or linear, very similar to Sanganeri prints and the printed fabric just as admired.
The simple tools of the printer
The craftsmen use a simple block of seasoned teak wood with a wooden handle. The underside of the
block is chiseled and a design etched on it. The blocks can be in different shapes and sizes. These are dunk
in color and the fabric is stamped with this block. The traditional vegetable colors were red, yellow, indigo
and saffron made from pomegranate rind, madder and turmeric; today chemical dyes give a plethora of
color ranges. The fabric to be printed is normally cotton, though silk is also used. The fabric is stretched
over a table, fastened with pins, and the craftsmen begin the printing.

The two printing techniques used in Rajasthan are direct printing by wooden blocks and resist process
involving wax to block prints on fabric. In direct hand block printing the carved wooden block is dipped
in color and then pasted and the color printed on fabric. Sometimes an outline of the pattern is stamped in
black and then the color filled in. In resist printing the wooden block is smeared with wax or mud and
then imprinted on fabric. The fabric is then dyed and the wax melted and the mud washed to reveal original
block patterns. The whole process of imprinting yards of fabric is time consuming and takes the collective
expertise of the printers to get the continuous evenness of the pattern. Craftsmen in Kala Dera in Rajasthan
use the resist process, they call it Dabu. In Ajrak, a complicated mud resist technique is used to print both
the sides of the fabric, the colors are red and blue and the patterns, geometrical. In the village of Balotra,
this technique is honed to a fine art, with simultaneous reverse block printing, even when one side of the
fabric is wet with print.

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In Jaisalmer, a different kind of resist printing with wax is done. The printing is traditionally done at night
in winter as the day temperature is summer is high. The wax is applied to the fabric with a square block
intricately carved. The fabric is dyed twice. The background color is mostly red and its variations and the
outline of the square design is in black. The tribal Banjara artists of Kishangarh print vibrant red and
yellow spreads in cotton. The motifs are unusual, scorpions, centipedes, chilies, and ladders apart from
the leaves and creepers. Animals such as elephants and cheetah are also traditional, though these are not
meant for clothes but spreads only.

Embellishing the print

When it comes to ornamenting the fabric, Rajasthan has master craftsmen. Jaisalmer, is home to some of
the most beautiful mirror work and embroidery. Colored cotton thread is embroidered on fabric in delicate
running or chain stitch and then a splatter of mirrors is sewed on further enhancing the design. Quilts,
skirts, odhnis are all beautified, normally by women, whose domain this largely is. Techniques learnt from
mothers are applied by daughters. The colors are rich and vibrant and the motifs are from nature-trees,
birds, animals, and flowers. The products they create now, are furnishing items, clothes, bags, and
umbrellas, all fit for urban users and a far cry from the camel saddles and leather bags which were adorned
with mirror work and embroidery.
Put to good use
Hand block printers work their magic on the soft cotton and silk of the Chanderi, Maheshwari, and
Mangalgiri saris. From tussar, georgette, chiffon, khadi, khadi silk, to voile, the printers beautify any
fabric. Products range from kurtas, skirts, and clothing to bedspread, cushion covers, table cloths, napkins,
quilts, home decorations etc. The throbbing markets of Jaisalmer such as Sada Bazaar, Pansari bazaar and
Manak Chowk have a vast array of the mirror work items on display. Jaipur the main trading town for
fabric in Rajasthan has yards of fabric and products in Nehru Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar apart from the state
emporium Rajasthali which is stocked with the traditional and new samples of the hand blocked fabric.

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4.1 Dabu Printing
Dabu printing is a unique art form. This mud-resist hand-block printing is practiced mostly in the state of
Rajasthan, India. The process involves hand block printing to be done on the fabric with Dabu paste which
is made from clay, Guar gum and sprinkled with saw dust. Mud Paste used for covering certain parts or
patterns as per designs as resist. Different types of wooden blocks used for giving different patterns and
designs manually. Practiced and perfected by the Chippa community, Dabu printing is a laborious process.

4.2 History
One of the many stories of the discovery of Dabu occurs in 8th century, in a village near Akola, Rajasthan.
A Rangrez (cloth dyer) accidently put in his mud speckled dhoti, from the previous day, with the clothes
to be dyed in the Indigo vat. He was surprised to find an odd-one-out the next day, amongst the dyed
fabrics, left out to dry.
The parts where the
earth rested, the dye did
not blot on and retained
the original color. Like












generously by nature,
these are believed to
have been employed in
India, during 8th century AD. This is indicated by the oldest specimen found of Dabu printed fabric in
Central Asia. The patterns are traditional, handed down intact, over generations. The motifs are picked
from nature and surrounding elements, and then crafted onto wooden blocks. This method of Bagru block
printing gets its name from the word dabaana, meaning to press.

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4.3 Types of Dabu Prints

Dolidaar Dabu: Made from wheat, lime and gum mixed with water to make a semi-thick paste.

Gawanrbali Dabu: Made from gawanr seed powder, lime, molasses, oil, and kali mitti. It has the
best adhesive strength of the three.

Kaligur Dabu: Made from kali mitti, lime, wheat flour and gum. It has the least adhesive strength

4.4 Manufacturing Process

Firstly, Fabric Desizing is done by repeatedly beating the wet fabric against a (stone). It is frequently kept
for a day after such beating so that enzymatic reaction can loosen the size. This process continues for three
days. After that the fabric is dipped in Myrobalan (Tanning) agent followed by drying the fabric in the
sunlight. The fabric is then printed once with a paste of Alum+ Tamarind Seed+Direct dye. (Red Process).
After that fabric is washed and dried, its boiled with Dhauri Ke Phool (Jaloor)+ Alizarin (Madder)+Mahi
for 1 hour at 100deg Celcius. The fabric is circulated about 5 times using Bamboo Poles. If the color
required is dark then some iron water needs to be added. After the fabric is dried, the actual printing using
the Dabu paste is done. The printer always performs this task on a pathiya. He then uses wooden dattas
dipped in the Dabu paste to impose resist prints on the fabric and gives a soft beating on the handle of the
block. The dabu paste smeared on the block is a thin, even layer. If the paste is too much, it spreads to the
other parts of the motif.
Dolidar and Gawanrbali resist pastes dry quickly though thesame cant be said for Kaligar Dabu. In this
case fine saw dust is sprinkled over the printed fabric. The fabric is dried in the sun, following which, its
treated with Myrobalan and then dried again. Later its dipped completely in Alum + Water, Dried and
washed and again before dyeing it with the final color. Lastly, it is dried in the sun and washed to reveal
the final design.
MOTIFS: The most common motifs are the Butas and floral like Surajmukhi, chakri, genda, anguthi etc.
Trellis patterns like Jaali, Bels, etc are also common. Geometric- chaupar, chatai, kangura, leher etc. Many
times Geometric floral combinations are also seen.

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4.5 History of the Blocks

Various tribes or groups of people, the
world over have their own symbolism.
A specific colour; a particular kind of
embroidery, a distinguished style of
jewellery or the patterning on their
garments helps us recognize them. This
gives them their own unique identity.
Even today we find communities in
remote areas in India as well as other
parts of the world, where a specific style of printing in precisely the same design and colour is worn by
every individual of the same group.

Today India has many major printing

centres with their own block making
skills and history. Wood blocks are
largely used for printing fabrics for



bedspreads and sometimes even wall

hangings or prayer rugs. Blocks are
also used to transfer designs, which
were used by the embroiderer as a




example in Chikankaari of Lucknow, Kashmiri shawls and Pheran; embroidered yolks in Rajasthan and
Gujarat.9 Another technique where blocks are used to print the basic design before the real work started
was tie and dye or baandhani from Kutch.

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The cornerstone of the block printing process is the carving of the wood blocks. The block carving process
is tedious and demands an exceptional degree of skilled craftsmanship. The process of block making is
akin to building a jigsaw puzzle. The most skilled part of the block making process is the making of the
outline block. The outline block is often the costliest of all the blocks in a design set. It is the skeleton
around which the rest of the design is fleshed out. The most skilled artisan in a block making shop, often
the owner, will work on this piece. Work on the block begins with an accurate freehand drawing of the
designs outline on tracing paper. Using the outline drawing as a map, a drawing for each color in the
design i.e. the color fill blocks are traced out.

A block starts out as a planned slice of shesham wood. The design is traced on to the woods planed
surface. The wood is then chiseled to the depth of a third of an inch. Tiny holes are drilled in areas intended
for the application of flat color. These holes are stuffed with cotton at the time of printing to ensure an
even application of color. The precision that a master block maker achieves with his meagre arsenal of
hammer and chisel is truly extraordinary. Generally the size of a block is between five to eight square
inches. However in instances where the design requires it, blocks of up to fourteen inches may be carved.
The size constraint of the blocks to a large extent defines the parameters of viable design. Hence small
motifs and repetition, characterize block printed designs. The number of blocks required for a design can
range from 3 to 30 depending on the complexity of the design. It is interesting to try to estimate the number
of blocks used to print a block printed textile. It is possible to do this by studying the design in terms of:

The number of colors used, since each color will have its own block.

The different components of the design,

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i.e. the presence of a border in addition to the main design. Another characteristic of block printed textiles
are their magnificent borders. The borders will always consist of a separate set of block (outline plus color
fill), distinct from the block set used for the main design. Depending on the complexity of the borders, its
size and the sequence in which it is to be printed, the border itself may consist of several sets (outline plus
color fills) of blocks
Once the blocks are carved they are left to stand in large trays of mustard oil, for a couple of days. This is
done to prevent warping, caused by moisture absorption from liquid dyes during printing. Later, the excess
oil is drained from the blocks by leaving them to stand on wads of fabric for a couple of days.

4.6 Natural Dyes

Natural dyes are obtained from natural sources. Most are of plant origin and extracted from roots, wood,
bark, berries, lichens, leaves, flowers, nuts, and seeds. Others come from insects, shellfish, and mineral
compounds. Natural dyes were the only source of color for textiles, leather, basketry, and other materials
until synthetic dyes were developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Of the thousands of natural
color substances, very few became significant commercially. Dyestuff refers to the plant or other material
from which the dye is extracted. Complete palettes are achieved by dyeing in one bath and sequential
dyeing in two or more baths.
There are two types of natural dyes. Adjective or additive dyes such as madder must use a mordant (a
chemical that fixes a dye) to bond with fibers. These are the most common type and have been used for at
least 2,000 years. Substantive dyes bond with a fiber without the use of a mordant or they contain tannin,
a natural mordant. Examples of substantive dyes include safflower, cochineal, and black walnut. Mordants
are chemical compounds that combine with the fiber and the dye forming a chemical bridge between the
two. Madder, cochineal, and other commercially important natural dyes are poly-chromic, meaning that
they yield different colors with different mordants. Common mordants are weak organic acids, such as
acetic or tannic acid, and metal salts including aluminum ammonium or potassium sulfate, ferrous sulfate,
and copper sulfate. Usually, the textile to be dyed is simmered in a mordant solution before dyeing (premordanting). Other options include adding the mordant to the dyebath or treating with another mordant
after dyeing to shift the color.

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Current Use
Natural dyes are used in small quantities by artists and craftspeople. Some commercial use of natural dyes
is a response to concerns about



Natural dyes are a renewable

resource and contribute to rural


However, in most commercial

applications, natural dyes do not
compete with synthetic dyes that
are available in more colors,
more uniform in composition
facilitating color matching, and
of known ratings to fading agents. Contrary to common assumptions, some natural dyes have excellent
fastness to light, cleaning agents, water, and perspiration. Commercially available natural dye extracts
facilitate color matching and make the dyeing process less involved.
Historic Natural Dyes
Evidence of well-developed dye works exists in many parts of the world. Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians,
and Peruvians were known for their excellent dyeing. Italian dyers were among the best from Roman
times through the sixteenth century. Dyers from India were supreme in dyeing cotton. Dyers in China
specialized in dyeing silk. Natural dyes were major trade items throughout history until the development
of synthetic dyes. By the early years of the twentieth century, natural dyes had been replaced in most
applications. However, most of these dyes remain important for artists, craftspeople, and niche producers.

Yellow dyes are the most numerous natural dyes, but most are weakly colored with poor lightfastness.
The most important yellow dye in Europe was weld (Reseda luteola), which had better lightfastness than
the dyes imported from Asia: saffron (Crocus sativus), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), and quercitron

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(Quercus tinctoria nigra). Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) is a contemporary dye extracted from wood
and sawdust from a native North American tree.

Red dyes included madder, cochineal, kermes, lac, cudbear, and brazil wood. Madder is a fast, rich-red
dye obtained from the root of the Eurasian herbaceous perennial Rubia tinctoria. It was used in a long and
complex process to produce Turkey Red on cotton and wool. With different mordants, madder produces
a range of colors. Insect dyes include cochineal (Dactylopius sp.) from Central and South America, kermes
(Kermoccus vermilis) of the Mediterranean region, and lac (Lakshadia chinensis and communis) of Asia.
Cudbear (from Ochrolechia, Lasallia, and Umbilicaria spp.) is a lichen dye from northern Europe. Brazil
wood (Caesalpinia spp.) from Asia and South America produces red, pink, and purple. Of these, madder
and cochineal were the most important and the most readily available to contemporary dyers.

Indigo is extracted from the stems and leaves of plants of the Indigofera species from India, Central
America, and Africa and from woad (Isatis tinctoria) from Europe. Indigo, originally from India, is used
for cotton, wool, and silk. Woad was an important source of blue in Europe until it was replaced by
imported indigo. Indigo from all sources was fermented to produce the dye. The dye must be reduced to
be absorbed by the fiber and the fabric exposed to oxygen to develop the blue color. Log wood
(Haematoxylon campechiancum L.) from Central America was one of the most important black dyes. It
also was used for blue and purple. Black walnut (Juglans nigra) is used in the twenty-first century to
produce substantive black and brown dyes.

Purple dyes have been among the most difficult natural colors to achieve in large quantities. Shellfish (or
Tyrian) purple was removed from shellfish of the species Murex found in the Mediterranean Sea and
Purpura found along the coasts of Central America. Orchil, another important purple dye, was derived
from lichens. Mineral dyes include iron buff, iron black, manganese bistre, chrome yellow, and Prussian
blue. They were used primarily on industrial fabrics.

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Dyeing with Natural Dyes

Natural dyes are most often processed in this way. The dyestuff is harvested or collected, soaked in water
for several hours, and heated to a low simmer for approximately an hour or more to extract the dye. The
extract is poured into another pot and water is added to achieve the desired dyebath volume. Wet, premordanted textile is added to the dyebath, which is heated to a low simmer for approximately an hour.
After the dyebath is cool, the textile is removed. Some dyers rinse before letting the textile dry. Other
dyers prefer to dry the textile for several days before rinsing.

Contact dyeing is an alternate method in which the dyestuff, a tiny volume of water or other liquid, sodium
chloride or mordant, and found materials like rusty nails or copper wire are placed in and around the textile
that is sealed in a plastic bag or glass jar for several days, weeks, or months. Contact dyed textiles have
unusual, one-ofa-kind patterns.

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5.1 Block Printing In Pipar

As of 2014 India census, Pipar city had a population of 32733. Males constitute 52% of the population
and females 48%. Pipar city has an average literacy rate of 52%, lower than the national average of 59.5%:
male literacy is 66%, and female literacy is 36%. In Pipar city, 18% of the population is under 6 years of
age. Pipar city is 65 km away from Jodhpur. It has one railway station and three bus stations so it has
transport connection among all the cities nearby Pipar city. It is a central point of shopping wholesale and
retail for all the nearby villages (Like Silari, Boyal jaliwara khurd etc.) and towns. Pipar is a tiny village
just an hour's drive from Jodhpur. Few know that this sleepy village is the nerve centre of the natural-dye
fabric industry of Rajasthan whose earth colours, indigo dyes and prints are a rage among the chic ethnic
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sophisticates in India and abroad. In fact, a large part of the production is exported. The colours are not
fast and this seemingly adds to the fabric's ethnicity and preference.

In Pipar, whole families are engaged in the dyeing and printing trade, while others weave the rather coarse
fabric that is used to create the famous Jodhpur prints. Unlike the Sanganer and Bagru prints, commonly
classified as Jaipur prints, the Pipar productions are more basic and seldom feature more than two colors
besides the base colour. Indigo dyes are the most popular among the colors used in this region. The largest
dyeing and printing unit in the village is run by the Shahbuddin family. While Shahbuddin himself is no
more, his three sons and their wives together run the business. The men handle the dyeing and printing
while the women help in the preparation of dyes and the sorting and packaging for dispatch. Shahbuddin
was a master printer and in great demand. He, however, had no head for figures and it was left to his wife,
Khatoon, to manage the financial side of the family trade.

After Shahbuddin's death his eldest son, Yaseen, took over and expanded the business considerably. The
indigo dye used by Yaseen is manufactured in an enormous vat which has been in use since his father's
time. The water in the vat is several years old as fresh water tends to make the colors patchy and to run

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easily. Thus, traditionally, among the families who are dyers, the indigo vat is always handed down from
father to son, like a precious heirloom.
The indigo in the vat is mixed with calcium hydroxide (lime) -- the quantity of lime is increased to lighten
the colour. The fabric is first dyed in the vat and then soaked in clear water for three days after which it is
hung up to dry for a whole day. It is again soaked in water and dried repeatedly for four times. Each wash
makes the dyes hold faster and the indigo shade brighter. Other colours are created from naturallyoccurring plant parts. Turmeric is used for an ochre shade, the skin of pomegranate for reddish-brown,
sunflower petals for a cream background, while black is obtained by soaking iron pieces in a mixture of
jaggery and water.

For printing, the dyed fabric is stretched on a massive table which can accommodate nearly 20 meters at
a time. The minimum order undertaken by the Shahbuddin family is 100 meters for each colour and design.
In the case of bed covers, Yaseen tries to economize by using a common background colour (base) and
undertaking a minimum of 1,000 pieces for each design. In repeat orders, you may never get the exact
colour as the first batch. But here lies the charm of the product -- each may be similar to the other but
never the same. The printing blocks are made out of Rohida wood which is indigenous to the State. The
more intricate blocks are usually made at Jodhpur or Jaipur, while the simpler ones are made locally at
Pipar. Yaseen ensures that the old blocks are well preserved as he finds that many of the designs made by
his father years ago are sought after even today. It is heartening to note that while chemical dyes, in
western shades and pastel colours, are used in many printing centres in Rajasthan, Yaseen and his brothers
are persisting with their traditional craft and finding a good market for it.

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5.2 Choice of Cluster:


Large export potential: Handicrafts is a key export earner of India. Thus, it was felt that
experiences in making this cluster aware about and equipped to respond to potential export demand
might help derive lessons for other handicraft clusters.


Replicability: It is estimated that there are around 2000 rural and artisan based clusters in India.
Some of these are hand block-printing clusters. It is estimated that there are at least 5 other
concentrations of hand block printing clusters in Rajasthan and at least 25-30 similar clusters all
over India. Thus the lessons learnt while implementing this programme in this cluster can be
replicated in similar clusters in India.


Scope for intervention in pollution related areas: The cluster offered scope for intervention in
issues related to pollution and also improved living condition. These are sensitive yet important
aspect of overall development. Importantly this is also a very regular phenomenon in any textile
cluster in India. It was felt that the experience to be gathered in working towards a solution in this
aspect in a cluster framework might be replicable elsewhere.

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5.3 Process of Dabu Printing in Pipar

Mr. Yasin Chippa has established a unit which specialized in products which depict the art of hand block
printing. One unique aspect of their products, apart from the hand block printing is the only natural dyes
are used for dyeing the grey fabric. The production of the end product is an extensive process and the time
taken can range from 6 to 10 days for 1 SKU depending on the kind of product and the intricacy of the
design. The fabrics, on which printing is done, range from cotton and chiffon to silk.

The entire process is as follows:

Step 1: First of all Fabric is received from the mills. Traditionally mill made cloth of 30s, 60s and Mull
is used. It is heavily sized. For that it needs to be desized. Desizing is done by repeatedly beating the wet
fabric against a hard surface (stone). It is frequently kept for a day after such beating so that enzymatic
reaction can loosen the size. Next day it is again beaten and so on. This process continues for three days.

Step 2: After that the fabric is dipped in Myrobalan (Tanning) agent. The myrobalan paste is prepared
about three hours in advance by mixing about 2kg paste for 100 m of fabric. After that fabric is dried in
the sunlight.

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Step 3: The grey fabric is laid on a table and the design is printed on it by the laborers working there with
the blocks as indicated by the buyer or depending on their own discretion, if they are preparing samples
on their own to sell it to the buyers. The blocks are dipped in different kind of dyes depending on the color
of the print needed on the product. This function takes a lot of time because the entire fabric has to be
printed by the hand and the person engaged in the block printing process has to be highly skilled and very

Step 4: Once the entire fabric has been printed it is dried under the sun, so that the ink used for printing
the designs does not drip or smudge and further processing of the fabric can be carried out.
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Step 5: After the dried fabric is obtained, it is again laid out on a table and then the process of Dabu is
carried out. Under this process, the same blocks with which the fabric was printed are taken and these
blocks are dipped in mud. The blocks are then placed exactly where the print was made with them on the
fabric before. This is done so that the print is covered with mud, the base of the fabric can be dyed with
the required colour. The dye does not cover the design printed on the grey fabric in step 1. This technique
is known as resist dyeing.
Step 6: Once the process of Dabu is complete, the fabric is sun dried and then taken for further processing.

30 | P a g e

Step 7: Now comes the process of dyeing of the entire fabric. Here. Mr. Chippa uses only natural dyes for
the products. The fabric is dipped in the dye a number of times, which depends on the depth of the colour
that is needed on the fabric. For the colour indigo, the fabric is dipped in the dye only twice.

Step 8: After dyeing of the fabric, the fabric is boiled for color fastness. Boiling of the fabric is not done
in the case of indigo dyeing.

Step 9: Once the fabric is boiled, the fabric is again sun dried so that the color gets absorbed in the fabric.

Step 10: The fabric is washed in order to let off the excess color from dyeing of the fabric.

Step 11: The fabric is sun-dried, giving the end product which is sold to the buyers. This is the general
process followed at the unit. The time varies depending on the design to be printed on the fabric, the type
of dye being used, the kind of fabric and the climate at Pipar. The unit remains closed during the autumnwinter season because the color drips and takes a very long time to dry due to the rains and the cold

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The major buyers of hand block printed products manufactured at Pipar are Fab India and Pyramid retail
(which is located in Mumbai). These organizations place their order with Mr. Chippa who gets the
products manufactured as needed. Thus the pipar unit is just an intermediary in the entire supply chain.
The supply chain begins with the procurement of grey fabric from Ahmedabad and finishes at the sale of
the end product to the customers. The main points of value addition in manufacturing of these products
The products are dyed using all natural dyes which are eco- friendly and are completely safe to wear and
use. They do not affect the human skin in any way. Another point is that, the products are hand block
printed which gives them the unique look and enhance their value in monetary terms as well.
The movement of material starts from Ahmedabad, from where they source the needed grey fabric. The
grey fabric used generally is cotton but can vary depending on the order placed by the buyer. A major part
of the manufacturing (which included dyeing and block printing) is done at Pipar. These products are then
shipped to the buyer, who can then carry out the function of cutting and stitching if required at their
manufacturing unit. The end product is then sold to the customers.

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Material( grey fabric )

sourced from vendor
located in ahmedabad

The manufacturing process which

includes dyeing, block printing and
washing of the fabric is done at

The end product is obtained is

shipped to the buyer

The buyer after checking

the order sends it for
further manufacturing
which includes cutting
and sewing operations.

Finished goods are finally

shipped to retail outlets
owned by the buyer
where they are sold to the
end customers.

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5.5 Dyes and Prints Used in Pipar

Nature is the source of all riches on this planet. The Natural Dyes are from the vegetable origin, are biodegradable and environment friendly thus helping to maintain the ecological balance. The dye stuff ranges
from Nila (INDIGO), Manjisthaa, (MADDAR), Haldi, Pomegranate, Heena, Mango Pulp, Kasmi, Iron
Extract, etc. The colors are non-toxic and non-allergic and applicable on all kinds of fabrics like cotton,
silk, tussar, chiffon, dupion silk, etc.
This Block printing technique is a labor intensive activity, generating vast employment activities for tribal,
traditional craftsmen and rural women, therefore is highly appluadable. Despite the long laborious process
the damage to the fabric during the dyeing and printing process is negligible compared to chemical dyes.
The printers have managed to establish themselves and are trying to create awareness for this environment
friendly process. A block printed fabric reflects the skill and craftsmanship and the personalized touch of
a human hand makes this art an exclusive masterpiece.
Unique Features:

Raw material used for dyeing derived from natural abundant resources.

Dye stuff ranges from Nila (INDIGO), Manjistha (MADDAR), Haldi, Pomo-granate Heena,
Mango pulp and Kasmi Etc.

Deep colors that give a very antique finish to fabric making it look ancient.

Our dyes are Biodegradable and Environmental friendly.

Non-Toxic and Non Allergic.

Fulfilling our commitment to society by providing employment to tribal, traditional craftsman

and rural people.

Color Process:
1. Black
Waste iron (old horse-shoes etc.) are soaked in water along with jiggery and millet atta for a
minimum of 15 days. This water is then boiled at around 80 degrees centigrade after which the
residue is removed. Tamarind seed powder are then added and the mixture is then re-boiled till
the colour is as required..
2. Red
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The first process is Harda wherein the fabric is soaked myrobulan and dried.

It is then dipped in a solution of alum and water and then dried. This fabric is then given
a rinse to remove the daboo.

This fabric is then dyed or boiled in a solution of the dhavari flower and sakur mixed
with alizirine for about one hour.

In case of printing, this solution is thickened and printed on the fabric with wooden

3. Indigo
The Indigo plant is most commonly grown in regions of South India but of late efforts have been
made to grow this in regions of Rajasthan and elsewhere.
The fabric is left in the sun to oxidize after each dip in the dye pit. It is really critical that the
sunlight is just right for this as any sudden clouds etc. can result in a change in colour.
The dyed fabric is washed continuously for about 2 days to get rid of any residue colour and give
the blue opportunity to mature.
4. Green / Yellow
To convert Indigo to Green the fabrics are dipped in a solution of Turmeric & left out to dry. The
Finished green tone after the dip in turmeric.
5. Yellow / Orange
These colours are developed by soaking pomegranate fruit shells and using the residue solution to
dye the fabrics. This is normally done in conjunction with any of the above colours to get the
required shades.
6. Turquoise (Blue/Green)
To develop a turquoise shade, Indigo dyed fabric is dipped in a solution of harda and iron
(blackish) water. After this it i9s subjected to two cold rinses.

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Bhalka is one of the earliest and a complex
technique of Block Printing on cloth using
natural colors like Haldi. This art work
flourished in Rajasthan and is a traditional
pehnawa of the Bhaat (Banjara)kaum in

ThePanihariprinting technique is found only in
Rajasthan.In the Panihari print indigo and
alizarin are the most prominent colors. It is a
traditional costume of the Sirvi
(Choudhari)community in Rajasthan.

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The BoriyaBlock print is mainly done in brown,
iron black, blue, yellow, green and white.This
kind of print is much prevalent among the Mali
Kaum in Rajasthan.

Nanna print comprises of natural colors like
indigo, alum, haldi& alizarin. Although a
deserted land but the availability of good water
enhances this kind of block printing and is
carried by the widows in the Bhaat (Banjara)
community who carry these prints in their
traditional ghaghras.

This kind of Block print called the
JodhpuriKatar is a combination of some
brilliant colors where the basic colors used are
indigo, iron, alum and anar and is traditionally
carried by the Rebari (Raika)&Loharkaum.

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The Gendaprint is seen mostly in the traditional
dresses of theBhaat (Banjara) kaum. Natural
colors like alum, indigo &dhabu are used in this
kind of block printing. Dhabu also called the
Resist process using edible gum, Jaggery, Lime
mixed with Kali Mitti is used in this technique of
Block printing.

The MethiBlock printed fabrics are popularly
flaunted by the Choudhari (Godwal)
community in Rajasthan. Natural colors with
hues of indigo and red are used for printing the
motif on the fabric.

The GundaPhetiya kind of Block prints are
vividly seen in the traditional attires of the Mali
Jatiin Rajasthan. Simple yet unique prints with
shades of alizarin and indigo enhance the
simplicity of the fabric.

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The SadaChhint as the name symbolizes is a
simple Block printing technique where natural
colors are used to print the motif on the fabric.
Women in the SadaChhint (Vaishnav)kaum in
Rajasthan carry these prints in their traditional

10. JALI
The Jali form of Block prints symbolizes the
GadriyaLohar (Ghumakkad) &Regar (Jatiya)
Jati in Rajasthan. A simple and exquisite print
with natural colors enhances the richness hidden
in the simplicity of the designs.

The Rakhri prints are beautiful motifs printed on
the cloth using finely carved wooden blocks.
These prints are mostly seen in the traditional
outfits of the Rebari (Raika)kaum in Rajasthan.

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12. MAKHI (ChhotiButi)

The MakhiBlock Printing technique with
inherent simplicity in the form of simple motifs
with the use of natural colors like indigo, dabu,
alum &anar is a customary dress print of the
Lohar community.

The traditional costume of the Rebaris in
Rajasthan primarily features the Makoda Block
print. Very fine motifs with natural colors like
bright shades of blue and red leave a lasting

14. SADA
The main colors used in the Sada technique of
Block printing is indigo and dabu. This kind of
print is quite common in the outfits of the
Bishnoi Kaum in Rajasthan.

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In Rajasthan unique cloth-dyeing method
prevails of which the Phooliprint is quiet
interesting. It is the traditional pehnawa of the
shepherds of the Rebari (Raika)kaum in
Rajasthan and some natural colors like indigo
and haldi are used to enhance the beautification
of the fabric.

Women in the Sindhi Muslimkaum in Rajasthan
are seen flaunting these traditional Mehndiblock
printed ghaghras. Elegant geometrical prints
speak up the idea behind these simple prints in
bright colors.


Rajasthan is famous for Hand Block prints. The
GulButta prints are part of the Clothing of the
Jain and Choudharicommunity in Rajasthan.
Beautiful motifs with natural colors like indigo,
iron and alum are used.

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The Bavliya kind of prints is mostly seen in the
traditional outfits of the women in the
Choudhari (Godwal) community of Rajasthan.
The prints are made with finely carved blocks
using natural colors.

Nimboli is a traditional art of Block printing
technique with natural color extracts like those
from haldi. Women in the Choudhari
community carry these kinds of prints in their
traditional ghaghras.


OulPhetiyaa Block printing technique which
carries a dramatic layout with colors like indigo,
alum, dabu and haldi which enhances the
richness of the fabric.These prints on fine fabrics
are fondly used by the women in the Choudhari

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A wave like visual impact is what the Samunder
Block printing is all about. The beautiful prints
carry with them the richness of ancient
Rajasthani art and are seen in the costumes of the
Meratkaum in the Ajmer district of Rajasthan.

22. KAPA
The Kapa kind of Block printing technique
comprises of the usage of some bold geometrical
patterns as the motifs. The Rebari (Widows) in
Rajasthan are seen carrying these bright colored
prints in their dresses.

Beautiful printing techniques similar to the name
itself, the Ankuri prints are flaunted by
theKalbeliya and the Jat community. Delicate
art of Block printing with natural colors like
alizerin enhances the serenity of the fabric.

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TheIlaicha print on fine fabrics is the traditional
favourite among the women in the Sirvi
(Choudhari) community in Rajasthan.In Block
printing technique where very fine and sober
prints with bright hues of blue, red, green and
yellow are used.


The Rata Katar is a dominant pehnawa of the
SirviKaum in Rajasthan.Simple yet elegant
Block printing technique with natural colors like
indigo and alizarin highlights the richness
embedded in Rajasthani art & culture.

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6.1 Product Mix
At the Pipar Unit a variety of products are manufactured, the products that they deal with can be
categorized as follows.
Bed Sheets: Single and double

Dress Material

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These are the major products that the unit manufactures. Other products belonging to the home furnishings
category are also manufactured if an order is placed for the same. These include pillow covers, mats, bed
covers etc. The products are available in a variety of fabrics and colors as ordered by the buyer.

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Chapter 7
7.1 Marketing Links
A. Marketing Channels

Local markets

Traders residing in nearby villages.

Designers dealing with home furnishings and apparels.

Fairs, exhibitions and festivals.

Direct retailers.

Students from design institutes.

Government and semi Government organizations.


B. Current Customers

Brands like Fabindia, Pantaloons and Anokhi.

Textile research organizations like Sarabhai Foundation.

Selected tourists both Indian and foreign.

Local market and community usage.

Nearby villages

C. Prospective customers

Local market during festivals.

Other state markets during festivals.

The NRI market during the navaratri festival.

Boutiques related to traditional textiles.

Designers utilizing the expertise of Hand painting and printing.

Niche market aimed at high fashion home furnishing and apparels.

Fairs, festivals and exhibitions.

Textile institutes for case studies and project development.

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Museums and research organization for documentation of the living art form.


1. Present Market segment of the Clustera. At present the core cluster has been dealing mainly with the rural and local market.

Quality of the products being manufactured is of good eminence, yet it suits only the local market

For the production, raw material is being sourced from the local market band not much exploration
is being carried out.

Design and the block patterns are based on the designs developed by the local artisans.

Experimentation of product range also has not been initiated by the artisans.

Quality control and time management is not given much importance in case of products
manufactured for the rural market

b. State and National Awardees

Recognition in the form of State and national awards has come to the artisans in the recent past.

This has led to participation of fairs and festivals around the country and exposure to other national

The same range and quality of products which services the rural and local market are being carried
on to the national platforms.

Hence even though they are getting the opportunity it is of no use.

2. Performance and Ability of the Cluster

Artisans of the cluster are highly skilled to meet the contemporary market Requirements and demands. As
they have been dealing only with the rural and local market, they are not well exposed to market trends
and styles, yet due to their skill proficiency it does not become a drawback for them. With help of training
programs, communicative workshops etc, and the artisans can be very well versed to understand the
present design scenario and requirements.

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a. Historical Performance of the Cluster

In Rajasthan, textile printing and kalamkari are both very ancient techniques.

A lot of Historical evidence proves export of hand printed textiles from Rajasthan to other

The state was not only rich in skill of hand printing and hand painting; it was also one of the most
important areas of natural ingredient production.

b. Traditional printing stylesYears of practice and experience has helped the artisans to explore a lot with the mediums and techniques.
Most of the artisans are skilled in two to three styles and techniques of printing. Though for quite some
time they have not been working much with natural dyes, the older generation still remember the recipes
and encourages the younger age group to work with them.
Besides these styles the biggest advantage of this area over any of its competitors is the skill of Hand
Painting. Kalamkari as a textile medium has always held a very significant role in history of Indian
textiles. Unfortunately, due to the social significance of the kalamkari artists of Pipar, they never received
their due recognition. Opportunely, in the contemporary global market where social stratus do not play
any role, kalamkari of Pipar can be nurtured to receive its due value and appreciation. The kalamkari
artists are very highly skilled in their lines and drawings, overall composition, color balance and aesthetic
representation of their art form. Their motifs and patterns are very unique and do not find any resemblance
in any other craft form. Hence, this can help in creating a very unique brand identity for the cluster.
Also, as most of the painters have been printing as their secondary occupation they are very skilled
printers, the combination of the two mediums and knowledge of natural dyeing can become the USP of
the cluster brand.

c. Geographical Location of the cluster

Climatic conditions play a major role in production of resist prints, mordant prints and natural
dyed products. A with its dry climate has proved to be an appropriate site for this sort of craft form.

Water is another very noteworthy player in fabrication of natural dyed goods. The mineral present
in this areas water has been imparting bright shades and tones to the natural dyed products in
comparison to other competitors in the country.
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7.3 Set Backs faced by the Cluster Artisans

a. Introduction of other techniques in the market
Introduction of techniques like screen printing acted as a major drawback for the hand block printers all
over the country. Although manually operated, it was used for mass production, which led to
unemployment of artisans. Though the cost price reduced, but unethical practices like selling screen
printed stuff as block prints created problems for the genuine block printers. The aesthetical value of
techniques like resist print started losing its charm.

b. Chemical Dyes taking place of Natural Dyes

Around the nineteenth century Chemical dyes replaced the laborious process of natural dye extraction and
printing. For an era, the textile history of Ahmedabad has been focusing on various kind chemical dyes
and pigments. Due to lack of exposure to natural dyes, certain artisans did not learn the recipes from their
ancestors. Besides that the artisans who continued using natural dyes kept facing problems due to the
cheaper rates of chemical dyed products.

c. Lack of interest of the younger generation

Younger generation of artisans either lost interest in the traditional craft form, due to lack of work or lack
of interest in the arduous processes.

d. Emergence of rivalry
Limited amount of work led to family or community rivalry. Another form of rivalry took shape amongst
the genuine natural dyed hand block printers and the screen printers.

e. Lack of Infrastructure
Most of the cluster members have migrated to from neighboring villages. Due to lack of work as well as
scarcity of capital they could not set up proper infrastructure for their craft form and had to rely on
temporary make shift setups.

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7.4 Aspects favoring the cluster

a. Inherited skills
The artisans have been trained by their forefathers. They have inherited the skills as usually the entire
family used to be involved in the craft form and they used to be brought up with it. With the increasing
recognition, the artisans have imbibed sense of pride in their craft forms. This in turn is making the next
generation interested in accepting the craft form as a source of income.

b. Awards
Artisans have got recognition through awards in the recent past the government has awarded recognition
to certain artisans of the cluster in form of State and National awards which in turn has boosted their
enthusiasm and interest in their traditional craft form

c. Increase in demand in National and International market

There is an increase in demand of natural dyed, hand block printed textiles in the national and international
market. A very selective and niche market is developing for value goods.

d. Recognition of the craft

Crafts getting its recognition as alternate source of income Due to the various training programs conducted
by the government and increase in work in this field, unemployed people are taking it up as alternate
source of income.

e. Increase in the trend of traditional craft form

Traditional craft forms are regaining their status. The trend of traditional craft forms has once again come
back in the market. A lot of value has increased for the conventional crafts and skills.

7.5 Export Potentiality of the Cluster

The handicrafts industry in India is spread all over the country employing approximately over 5 million
artisans and around 67,000 exporters tapping this market. The handicraft and handloom sector is a major
source of rural employment and earns substantial foreign exchange. The Indian handicraft sector this year
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has shown an annual average growth rate of 8.5%. Traditional textiles are as popular abroad as they are
within the country. Amongst the major export items, hand-printed textiles hold a very significant position.
The export prospects of this cluster is much higher than any of its competitive clusters if each of its USP
is nurtured individually

Hand Block Printing-

After an era of disappointment due to lack of work, introduction of other mediums etc, hand block printing
has once again revived its due recognition in the National and International market. The craft form is once
again being appreciated in the world market for its ethnic and aesthetical designs and patterns. Traditional
motifs, composition, color patterns etc are finding their appreciation in contemporary design palette.
According to the studies done by the Export Promotion Council of Handicrafts, export value of hand
printed fabric stood at 110.73 crores in the year 2006-2007(April report) and has gone up by 19.19% to
131.98 crores in 2007-2008(April report). According to the statistics each year there is an increase in
demand from countries like USA, UK, Japan, Italy, France, Australia and Canada.


Kalamkari as a textile art form is one of the oldest methods of embellishment on fabric thus enhancing its
value and this aspect has always enjoyed a niche market. As other methods of dyeing and printing evolved
kalamkari grew side by side in stature and held its own in an ever expanding market. Today it is all the
more relevant as it is hand painting on fabric as opposed to mass production machine goods. Thus is each
piece an individual design product, which increases its value both in national and international market.

Natural/vegetable dyes-

The art of making vegetable dyes is one of the oldest known to man and dates back to the dawn of
Civilization. Indias expertise in vegetable dyes dates back to ancient times. Using mordants to hold fast
the dye or resists to selectivity prevent them from touching the cloth were printed to create a lot of
historical master pieces. The discovery of synthetic dyes in the west in 19th century dealt a massive blow
to Indian Textile Industry. Some of the chemical dyes earlier found associated with hazards effecting
human life creating skin diseases and lungs problems. The environmentalist, therefore, started searching
the substitute of synthetic items which has led the use of more & more natural dyes. In recent days the
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inherent advantages of vegetable dyes has resulted in the revival and use of vegetable dyes. The
consumption of synthetic dyes has been estimated at 1 million ton per year.

7.6 Analysis of Present and Prospective Market Segments

The potential clientage can be segmented into Domestic and Export market.
At present the cluster is mainly dealing with the domestic market which can be further subdivided into
mainstream market (rural and local) or the luxury market (high end)

a. Block printed and kalamkari products

Traditional block printed products are known by their ethnic appeal and eco-friendly vegetable dyes,
appreciated worldwide by the domestic and International buyers. The range of products comprise of
running fabric, home furnishings and ready-made garments. The connoisseurs value the hard work that
goes into block printing and the preparation of natural dyes that makes it eco-friendly. The affluent
segment of population in India and several people in the western countries appreciate the distinction and
thus are willing to pay more for the product. Though the process of kalamkari is time consuming and
laborious, the artists consider it worth the appreciation they achieve. As the technique involves hand
painting with natural dyes, each product becomes a unique creation which cannot be duplicated. In the
contemporary design field, a very niche, high end clientage is developing for these kinds of products.
Appreciators value the originality and individuality of this art form and pay high amounts for qualitative

b. Design
An important factor for high end market .Buyers from high end market through the ethnic designs explore
and savor the culture and heritage depicted thereon with eco-friendly vegetable dyes. Demand of hand
block printed textile in fashion garments is also picking up. Buyer from this segment demands exclusive
designs that may be custom madeas per the buyers requirements. However the buyers expectations are
not fully met by the industry.

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c. Buyers from Middle end segment of the market

The buyers from this segment consist of mass middle market or mainstream market. The buyers of this
segment are mainly price conscious and are more concerned about the utility of the products.

d. Design-little consideration
With the domestic mass middle class consumers, designs and variety of printing do not hold much
importance. Cost effectiveness holds prior position while purchasing. Also, this entire segment gives much
more importance to brighter shades of chemical dyes in comparison to the earthy hues of natural dyes.

e. Quality suffers with mass market

Reacting to the domestic consumer needs, the screen printers are better placed to cater to the needs of a
large segment of population. They print on the lower to medium quality fabric and print it bright with the
help of synthetic dyes which are brighter than the natural dyes. The cost of printing with the help of screen
is lower by at least 50% as compared to hand block printing keeping the important parameters same such
as the number of colors used.

f. Marketing beyond means for most artisans

By most of the artisans marketing in mainstream market is considered much easier than reaching the
luxury market. Certain reasons which make the artisan less confidant to approach the high end market are

Due to lack of capital, artisans do not want to invest much on high end quality raw materials.

Artisans are not exposed to the trends and forecasts of the contemporary design world.

Most of the artisans in this field are not well educated. A few who have been to schools, and have
had good exposure have earned national awards for the skills displayed and capitalized upon it rich
through display in exhibitions and trade fairs etc.

This is however limited to the traditional kalamkari artists only. Those who are not skilled in hand
painting, suffer from lack of confidence of presentation.

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7.7 Possible Product Range for the market segments

a. High end or the Luxury market

Home Furnishings

Ready Made Garments

Single bed Covers

Short kurtas(men & women)

Double bed covers

Long Kurtas(men & women)

Square table covers

Shirts(men & women)

Rectangular table covers


Table runners


Table mat sets

Salwar kameez( women)

Table napkins

Saris (women)

Cushion covers

Scarves(men & women)


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A. Infrastructure
> Lack of work space is the main problem faced by the artisans of the Cluster.
>Due to this the artisans are not able to meet market requirements.
>Lack of infrastructure also includes temporary and poor working conditions like exposure to the vagaries
of weather, improper lighting, unhygienic working conditions etc.

B. Raw materials
>Inadequate storage space for the dye making ingredients results in cost overruns as repeated trips to the
market are necessary and only a limited amount of material can be purchased at one time.
>Lack of storage also results in fabric and the finished product being affected.

C. Production process
> The tables have 1-2 layers of jute bindings, which do not help in proper penetration of the natural
pigments during printing.
> Small copper/iron container is usually used for the boiling process of the raw materials and due to
insufficient space for dyeing, the dye becomes uneven.
> It consumes more time, money and labor to dye the products in smaller containers.
> Running water which is a must for the dyeing process is no longer freely available.
> The pollution in the available water affects dyeing quality.
> As drying facilities are cramped, the evenness of dyeing for which sunlight is a supreme factor gets

D. Products
> Limited product range.
> Limitations in finished goods as only cotton fabric is being used.
> Poor finished quality of goods.

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> Improper storage and packing conditions.

> Not exposed and updated vis a vie market requirements

E. Marketing and sales

> Unexposed to market requirements.
> Designer interaction sporadic and infrequent.
> Market penetration shallow.
> Lack of market feedback and a fashion forecast is also felt deeply.
> Domineering interference of the traders.
>Lack of advertising and public relations as marketing tools.

F. Major Competitors
Hand block printing is done in many parts of India, Yasin Block Prints faces competition from the block
printers of other cities of Rajasthan like Sanganer, Jaipur , Barmer and Balotra . The hand block printers
of these cities are major suppliers of Good Earth, Heavenly Abode and other retailers who specifically
deal in Handicraft Products.
Although the process of hand block printing flows smoothly at Pipar due to years of experience and proper
training to the generations that are working there, yet a few problems faced by them were discovered.
These are as follows.
(a) The First problem faced by them is related to Indigo Dye. One of the setbacks with the products
dyed with natural indigo dye is that of color bleeding. These products on washing lose a lot of
color that stains the garment. There is loss of color due to sweating as well that causes coloration
of the skin. This is a major problem that can stop the customers from buying the product which
are indigo dyed and indigo is a hot selling item of the business. They are still looking for an
appropriate solution for the problem.
(b) Secondly in case they dont get any orders from production, the entire labor force gets together to
create samples of products for the buyer. This is a time taking process but it still is necessary in
order to create revenues. The problem lies in the fact that if the sample product created and shipped
to the buyer is rejected by him then all the resources put to force in this process are wasted. . This
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happens a lot at the unit because of a lack or professional designers. The entire designing process
is handled by the workmen handling the manufacturing process who have no formal education
regarding forecasting and designing. This reduces their efficiency.
(c) Currently the unit is operating at a small scale. They have very limited buyers. This is because of
the lack of appropriate communication. Very few buyers are aware of the existence of the Pipar
unit of block printing.
(d) Just like the above problem regarding B2B, the same problem exists with B2C business. They have
a small retail outlet within the manufacturing unit premises itself. Due to its secluded and isolated
location very few customers are aware of this unit. The only communication is through Word of
(e) During the autumn winter season, for three months, the unit closes down completely as it takes
longer for the dye to dry and the prints also get smudged. However this is a climate problem and
cannot be dealt with.


A. Marketing and Designing
i. The designing capacity of the cluster has not kept pace with time. The art of traditional designing has
declined as the artisans have limited means to upgrade themselves. Designers working with the cluster
have not benefited the cluster in any substantial way. They have only worked in a static mode as one off
interventions. There is a total alienation of the artisans from fashion forecasting issues. As a result, the
majority of the printers remain untouched by issues relating to design and product development.

ii. Sales and exhibitions are organized by Government agencies throughout India as a strong medium. But
only the master craftsperson or artisans listed under government get informed about these exhibitions,
which cut the chances for marketing for poorly networked printers or painters.
iii. Most of the production is for domestic market. Designers or traders employing the artisans export the
product without any benefits to the artisans. The printers knowledge of consumer behavior and market
trends continues to be negligible.

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iv. Most of the production is usually sold through the traders which does no profit artisans. A lot of traders
have got into the field themselves and are employing the artisans only for job work.

v. Consumer tastes have changed and have become very discerning and personalized. Therefore the market
trend of handicraft sector is leaning more towards customization and small lots.

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SWOT Analysis



The clusters historical lineage and the fact that Renewed interest in traditional arts
its a traditional art and textile form.

forms has generated resurgence in

Pachedi painting.

The natural dyes used make it an eco friendly

textile form.

Strengthens the eco friendly textile


Natural dyeing medium permits the

use of only natural fabrics.

Strengthens the eco friendly textile


The artisans are skilled in textile painting and

hand block printing.

Enables product diversification and

value addition.

Younger generation willing to be apprenticed

into this trade, work load permitting.

Will prevent the craft from


Unique motifs linked to nature and not found in

any other textile form in the country.
This uniqueness makes it valuable

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Lack of infrastructural facilities.

Is a hurdle to manufacturing process.

Lack of running water necessary for

Affecting the quality of the end

the treatment of the fabric.


Industrial and chemical pollution of

Affecting the quality of the end

the available water source

product and may lead to skin disease.

Absence of social security.

Encourages captive buying by middle

men and leads to distress selling

Unsystematic process of dyeing

Creates a bad product image.

adopted by some artisans

Deteriorating quality of blocks.

Create sub standard linear work which affects

the finished product.

Lack of cooperative stimulus in the cluster.

Loss of Gov & semi Gov funding.

Lack of group storage facility for raw materials Cost of production goes higher and
and finished products

rate of rejects in the end product is high.

Poor domestic sales and no overseas

The cluster is not well linked to global markets Exposure
and fashion dynamics.

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Competition from screen printing and pigment Unable to match the competitive price structure.
Painters are loosing out in the long run.
Commercial fabrics are a threat to hand painted
Probability of lung disease is high
Health hazards due to wood/cow
dung based indoor fires for boiling



Use of natural fabric & dyes make it

Promoting niche sale

ideal for an ecologically aware market.

Traditional skill of the artisans.

Ideally suited to handle complicated

design patterns or variations.

Amenability of the artisan for

Can lead to business expansion and

diversification according to market







furnishings and apparel fabric.


for International acceptance of block printed fabric

as a textile form.

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10.1 Suggestions
A. Infrastructure

A common working space benefiting the entire cluster is necessary. This space should have


Hygienic working conditions


Proper lighting


Source of clean water

Drainage facilities


Raw Material storage space


Finishes material Storage space


Common meeting area


Production process made more environmental friendly.

B. Raw materials

Pooling in community resources to create a raw material bank for total material purchase
resulting in lower costs, better quality and time management.


Training and exposure to usage of varieties of dyestuffs and mordants.


Introduction to different fabrics leading to textural diversity in the finished product.

C. Production process

Improving the quality of the work table and alterations in the tools and equipment related to


Containers for boiling and dyeing to be made larger.

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Introducing environmentally friendly practices for heating to replace existing domestic fuels


Designing facilities for running water and its storage with conservation mapped in.

Better usage of available technology and further development of the same.


In case of natural dyes alternative sources of extraction should be involved.

D. Design Development

Maintaining the traditional palette and finding ways to incorporate them in modern product


Qualitative improvements in dyeing and printing.


Products up gradation according to market requirements.


Renewing traditional designs and patterns to blend with the modern concept.

Following changing color trends in the market.


Exploring various mordants for color variations.


Developing product ranges for a variety of textile sub fields.


Continuous interaction and exchange of information with designers, researchers and textile

E. Marketing and Sales.

Improved access and linkages of the cluster with the national and international markets.


Comprehensive marketing linkages.


Eventual empowerment of private sector.


Advertisement through Website.

Product diversification and sampling.


Participation through fairs, festivals at National and International levels.


Group participation and introduction of buyers and students to the work space and the cluster.


Maintaining quality of the finished product.

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F. Human Resource Development

Easing of internal competition within the cluster by means of social awareness and education.


More coordinated training facilities and development of resource archives.


Setting up technical training workshops for the younger generation


Socially responsible behavior and fair trade practices should be inculcated into the mindset of the

Health and social needs of the cluster should be given an ongoing attention.


Special efforts to be made to lead the cluster into quality awareness leading to better marketing.

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After this project with Yasin Block Printing at Pipar, it was found out that the existing marketing model
used is inadequate to meet the demands of the booming market. Our contribution to the projects helped
them to organize a structured and proper link to the various markets and to create a platform in order to
make them independent in terms of business so that all the artisans included in Pipar get benefitted.
On obtaining the proper resources from the market and working with different buyers as well as exporters
they would be benefitted in terms of product development and other related areas in terms of industry

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Bosence, Susane (1985) Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing, 2nd edn. On 20th December,

J. N. Liles (Dec 1990) The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use,
undefined: Univ of Tennessee Pr (1 December 1990). On 20th December, 2015.

Vats, Nidhi,'Role of Traditional Textile Hand Prints of Barmer in Employment Generation',

Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS), 18(2), pp. 59-62., on 21st Dec, 2015










at: (Accessed: 22nd december,2015).

Prideaux, Vivien ( April 1, 2012) A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing, On 22nd December, 2015

N. Epp, Dianne ( June 6, 1995) The Chemistry of Natural Dyes (Palette of Color Series),
undefined: Terrific Science Press., on 24th December, 2015

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