Block Printing in Jaipur: Peacock Block
At the beginning of October, I went on the trip of a lifetime: Ace Camps Block Printing in Jaipur, India. Day 1 in India marked our first day of class with Jen Hewett (author of Print, Pattern, Sew), who had flown in from San Francisco to teach us block printing and, of course, enjoy the beauty that is Jaipur. Spoiler alert: she’s awesome and teaches a fantastic class.
Our lodgings were a palace-turned-hotel, and my favorite feature of the venue (besides the adorable doors/doorways/alcoves) was the space allocated for our workshop. On a secluded corner of the property, we gathered two to a table and worked beneath the shade of a giant tree. It was bliss.
When I signed up for the class, I had every intention of preparing diligently for my block printing projects. I am nothing if not a planner. But despite the months of time between booking the trip and boarding the plane, I managed to arrive in India with no more preparation than a Pinterest board.
And you know what? I’m thrilled. I didn’t go to India to make things based on my normal – I went to India to see new and different things, to find new and different inspiration.
The night I checked in, I noticed this peacock window grate in the hallway leading to my room. “That would make a neat block,” I thought. Done.
I drew multiple iterations of that peacock, and each time it got simpler and more stylized. I wanted to keep the interesting outer curves of the shape so I could play with repeat patterns. In the end, my design was more modern and less intricate than my inspiration, and I am really happy with this distillation.
Once I had my final sketch, it was time for my favorite part: carving. Carving the blocks is so meditative. The active thinking part is over – once you’ve transferred the sketch, you just have to carve away what doesn’t belong. My hands found their zen and just went for it.
My hands would have been happy to carve all day. So it was for the best when, after probably multiple hours (again, zen, I have no idea), Jen nudged me and said, “I think it’s time for a test print.” She knew I would have kept carving until every line was way more precise than necessary.
I didn’t think my block was done – but it was! And I loved it. That test print was like magic. Once the block was inked, it was real.
The following day, we got to start playing with repeat patterns. I mixed up some peacock teal ink and began printing.
I played with repeat patterns, finding different tessellations where the peacocks naturally aligned with each other. I think this would make such a fun border print for a skirt or dress, and I’m really happy with the way it becomes more of a “pattern” than a “thing” when printed large scale. Like, you can tell they’re peacocks, but they’re also just an interesting visual repeat.
To finish my design, I carved one tiny teardrop to serve as a feather accent block. I used this micro-block to add gold feathers, randomly placed on each peacock, and it felt like just the right touch.
The rest of the trip, I was seeing peacocks everywhere. I think they were our unofficial tour mascot. Can you spot the peacock in the photo above?? That was one of the two who frequented our hotel trees and lawn. They’re gorgeous and they’re also LOUD! There were many other stylized drawings of peacocks in windows and on shop logos… all of them would have made fantastic blocks.
At night, the lights in the foyer cast perfect peacock shadows on the wall. Our trip mascot, shining through the night.