Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Blockprinter

We took a car out of Ahmedabad, to a small village and a special house.

Here lived an old man, a master craftsman, a winner of national awards who had travelled the world with his craft and has work in museums both locally (The Calico Museum, Ahmedabad City Museum, The Folk Art Museum) as well as national museums across India and around the world (including the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK).
Blind now in one eye, loosing the sight in his other, due to ageand cataracts we spent the afternoon in what was once his workshop listening to his story.

The blockprinter had no sons to carry on the profession or exercise the skills which he had learnt from his father and which had been passed down before for at least 5 previous generations. LOkesh had taken us there, he knew the man and had visited many times before. With his ailing eyes and health there was a concern among his friends that what remained of this master craftsmans work and the history held in the generations of sample books and blocks he had around him might be lost if it was not recorded. The old man wanted the collection of his lifes work to be held together, placed in a museum for all to see and learn from, that the tradition of which he was a part would continue in some way. He hoped that the remains of his craft might provide the funds for the operation to prolong his eyesight and sustain him in his remaining years.All around the workshop were examples of his work, books and cuttings from articlesHe explained the process of preparing the blocks from teak wood smoothing the surface, transfering the design, drilling the holes which would then be chiseled out. making multiple colour blocks from the first impressions
He showed us the border blocks and explained about their function in relation to the central designs.
Different colour combinations.

A calendar commissioned and made up of some 20 of more separate blocks printed on silk and cotton.

During our time here we visited by Brahmin Monkeys who sat at the window and listened...

As he told his story he revealed such amazing treasures including sample books from different eras (some over 150 yrs old), showing how designs and styles had changed over time.

Prints to mimic the Double Ikat weaving (Patola) produced in nearby Patan.Blocks produced by hammering folded and formed, flattened metal wire 'edge-on' into the blocks.

I felt very honoured to have seen such an amazing collection of skill and design.