Ajrak is a traditional block printing technique used to create intricate designs on fabric. The technique originated in the Sindh region of Pakistan, and is still practiced by artisans there today. Here is an overview of the Ajrak printing process, with pictures to illustrate each step:
Step 1: Preparing the fabric
The first step in the Ajrak printing process is to prepare the fabric. The fabric is washed and bleached to remove any impurities, and then soaked in a solution of water and alum to help the dye adhere to the fabric. Once the fabric is dry, it is ready to be printed.
Step 2: Preparing the blocks
Next, the blocks used for printing are prepared. The blocks are typically made from teak wood and are carved by hand with intricate designs. The designs are usually inspired by nature, and often feature paisley patterns, flowers, and geometric shapes. The blocks are then soaked in a solution of mud and water to make them more malleable.
Step 3: Applying the base color
Once the blocks are ready, the first color of dye is applied to the fabric using a large wooden block. This color is usually a deep shade of red, and is made from natural dyes such as madder or lac. The fabric is then left to dry in the sun.
Step 4: Applying the resist
The next step in the Ajrak printing process is to apply a resist to the fabric. This resist is made from a mixture of gum arabic, lime, and wheat flour, and is applied to the fabric using a small wooden block. The resist creates a barrier that prevents the dye from penetrating certain areas of the fabric.
Step 5: Applying the second color
Once the resist is dry, the second color of dye is applied to the fabric using a different block. This color is usually a lighter shade of red or a deep shade of blue, and is made from natural dyes such as indigo or alizarin. The fabric is then left to dry in the sun.
Step 6: Applying additional colors
Depending on the design, additional colors may be applied to the fabric using different blocks. These colors may include shades of green, yellow, or black. Each color is applied using a separate block and allowed to dry in the sun before the next color is applied.
Step 7: Washing and finishing
Once all of the colors have been applied and the fabric is dry, it is washed to remove the resist and any excess dye. The fabric is then boiled in a solution of water and tamarind to set the colors and improve the fabric's durability. Finally, the fabric is washed again and left to dry in the sun.