The craft of blockprinting was a medium created for storytelling: to record history and legacy. At the very heart of it, blockprinting holds still a moment in time. The heritage technique, in all its beauty, is a celebration of stories.
In November, we hosted a series of workshops with Khushiram, our fifth generation blockprinting artisan. Participants were given the option of sending in a custom design beforehand to have it carved in Jaipur and brought over to Singapore for keepsake.
When we passed Chinn her custom block crafted from her 2 year old daughter’s drawing, she pressed it close to her heart. With tears in her eyes, she told us the story behind the design; how her daughter ran up to her with a drawing, then pointed out the lines one by one saying, “This is mama, this is baba, and this is me.” A portrait of the world she saw in her family.
Chinn’s voice shakes as she shares this moment with us, and looks over to her daughter with brimming joy. “This is why I wanted these lines carved into a block.” She tells us, as she strokes her daughter’s hair the way mothers do, combing it tenderly.
As Chinn began printing her scarf, her daughter Lele, a name meaning happiness in Mandarin, ran around the space leaving her laughter echoing down the hall. Every once in a while, Lele would see what her mom was doing and ask to help. When she did, the block would fumble onto the scarf and leave behind a faded motif – but Chinn would just laugh it off, finding purposeful beauty in the accidental mark.
The nature of blockprinting unravels to hold stories. It is a craft that Khushiram learned from watching his father since he was young. Years later, he went on to start his own brand, A. K. Textiles, naming it after his father to honour him.
Seeing Chinn with a design drawn by her daughter, learning from Khushiram who mastered blockprinting from his father, was a moment befitting of the craft’s intent. Khushiram, telling the story of the four generations before him, and Chinn, unfolding the story of the generation after – two individuals sharing the stories that their family have inspired in them.
This is the beauty of blockprinting, that people can come into the craft and celebrate the narrative that exists within them.