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Block Print Influence December 09 2013, 0 Comments

The artist Anwar Behbehani recently talked to Khaleejesque Magazine about the inspiration she received from ecru’s creative director Nur Kaoukji during Nuqat’s 2012 block printing workshop. 

Nur gave a speech during Nuqat’s 2012 conference and a small workshop on block printing, which led Anwar to create a print that she used in products produced by Sadu House and sold at this year’s Nuqat’s Culture Shock Confrence.  It is a delight to see a young artist use an ancient technique in her work, and we love working with artisans in creating block printed products.  The full article on Anwar’s experience in Nur’s Nuqat workshop can be found here.  

Hussah

(Images courtesy of ecru and Khaleejesque)


'Aaj Mausam Bada Beimnaan Hai Badaa ... ' September 18 2013, 0 Comments

The best time to be in Jaipur, for me, is right after the monsoon. 

It's still very hot, more balmy than hot. It' s intensely green and the heat is interrupted by random light showers and abrupt thunder storms. 

But the best thing about this season, is that the workshops are on fire.

Everyone is back to work, as things can finally dry. And not unlike the feeling of coming back from vacation, everyone is pretty excited to see each other again.

All, except Ajit ... Ajit always walks into the office without knocking first, he grunts and casually slumps into a chair and starts staring across the room, hoping to see what new samples I am working on that he can criticize.

Picking up a wooden plate I had just had made he shakes his head and tsks to himself, 'not perfect ...' 

I ignore him. I always do. I usually don't even look up, as I am generally annoyed at this point by his aloof tardiness. 

Ajit begins to taunt .... 'not perrrfecttt...' 

I get annoyed, without looking up I ask him where my production is that I ordered 6 months before...

'No money, no production'. 

Now my temperature rises.  I try to keep my cool, and coldly ask what he's done with the down payment I gave him with the order...six months ago.

The cold war begins, Ajit attacks, I attack back, quietly, no voices rising, no eye contact made, just passive aggressive banter. 

Our relationship has been this way since I was 21. I worked with Ajit on several projects for Munnu ji and developed a rapport that I don't have with any of the other artisans. 

You see, as unreliable as he can be with timing or costing, the man is really very good at what he does. He loves his craft, and trains the team that works with him with precision. He also has a sharp eye, and enjoys more than anything to develop a piece. To work on it until the lines and curves are perfect and in proportion to the design.

I've learned a lot from Ajit over the years. Patience first and foremost, and to enjoy the process of developing a product. 

This time our argument escalated and I jump out of my chair. In order to calm myself I start to arrange the office bouquet in bitter silence.

Ajit slowly rises, walks towards me, stomach first, and begins to arrange the flowers as well.

'Ok, ok, now I show you sample'... 

He opens his magic bag and pulls out my samples, my hurt pumps, adrenaline takes over and all is at peace again.

Nur 

(Images courtesy of ecru) 


The Big Reveal April 30 2013, 0 Comments

We finally got the chance to introduce you to our world, last week, at the launch of the ecru’s Pop-Up shop at Dar Al-Funoon.  It wouldn’t have been a success without all of your amazing support. Our aim is to make sure you are constantly enjoying the simple luxuries of your home.  

We hope you love it, just as much as we love creating it.

xx,

Noor & Nur

(Video courtesy of Saud Al-Khateib for ecru)


Holi Post Better Late Than Never April 03 2013, 0 Comments

I can safely say, for those who manufacture in India, Holi is that time of year when you constantly cringe, knowing all your deadlines are due, and that absolutely nothing will get done. 

Because the first thing that happens when Holi approaches is that although everyone can speak of nothing else, the actual date that Holi falls on can not be pin pointed. 

'Some time around the 20th till the 29th, it's definitely one of those days'.  

The pre warning begins around two weeks in advance, 'Don't forget, it's HOLI, every one is returning to their village, all work will stop!' Whether they are going 1 week before or staying a week later also depends on when the date falls.

Frustration builds and you find yourself detesting absolutely everyone. 

From the happy tourists who arrive wearing the predictable white kurta pyjama, flip flops and huge Canon cameras complete with the wide angle lens, which you know isn't going to make it through the colorful, chaotic and highly wet festival of Holi. 

To your friends who smugly inform you of their elaborate Holi holiday plans that they've pre organized as not to endure the stress of watching their production being abandoned.

I'm never that organized. 

This year, although Holi was bumpy, manufacturing wise, I must say I was quite excited. 

A friend explained the mythological history of Holi, and like most holidays that fall around this time of year, it has to do with harvesting and the reformation of crops. 

It has developed into the festival of color, where everyone is basically intoxicated from the morning's start. The protocol is to dress in white, leave the house armed with water guns or buckets, and pigments which you have purchased the night before. 

Grandmothers, children, milk vendors, everyone comes out and goes completely wild. By the time you reach where ever it is that you are going to play Holi, you have probably been completely sprayed by a rainbow of colors on the street and are soaking wet.

It's a completely surreal feeling, and what is even better is that you can physically feel all tension and stress left behind as everyone runs frantically, spraying each other with water so the fluorescent pigments stick. Strangers roar at each other and join forces to gang up on others. I have no other way to describe it but surreal. 

By the end of the day, nothing makes sense. Everyone is an intoxicated blur of color and is completely worn out, but extremely happy and relaxed.

Generally life resumes to normal the day after Holi, at least with those who have returned from their villages. And it's an amazing feeling to try to keep a straight face and actually talk work while everyone, including yourself, has remnants of faint Holi stains that refuse to scrub off or green hair that will need a few more washes to resume it's natural color. 

Life is some how put into perspective, seriousness and stress are replaced by absurdity and foolishness. And it feels so good.  

Nur

(Images courtesy of ecru & Juliette Dumerchat)


Dhurrie Weaving March 04 2013, 1 Comment

I hadn't been in India a very long time before I was sent on a dhurrie mission. My charismatic boss Munnu Kasliwal, who was a firm believer in perfecting tradition, sent me to create a series of dhurries for the floors of his new store. 

For those of you unfamiliar with it's traditional name, a dhurrie is a hand woven carpet, traditional to India and can be made of cotton, wool, jute or silk. It is however; more commonly made in cotton and is known to cool your house in the summer, and warm it in the winter. 

I had no idea what to expect as I was on my way to the factory. I drove miles outside of Jaipur, listening to my iPod for about an hour, happy to be out of the office and into the country.  The driver off roaded for a while before we arrived at what looked like a farm dotted in what appeared to be multicolored bridges. 

It was an incredible site. 

I was in front of a field of pit looms where weavers sit in seats made into the earth, with their feet dangling in pits under oversized looms, using both their hands and feet to weave. 

I felt that I had entered into a world that time had forgotten. There wasn't a machine in sight. The weavers somehow appeared to be part of the Earth. I'm not one to use phrases such as 'organic', but in  a way, it seemed as though the two complemented each other. 

One of the weavers told me that this specific village was known to have the best dhurries in Rajhastan, but he was from this village and was bound to think so. I was mesmerized and spent the entire day watching how they separated the yarn, how they mounted the looms, how they sat and wove using both their hands and feet while singing away to Bollywood hits from the 50s. 

 

 

Thought I'd share.

NK


The Chai Walla's cousin ... February 22 2013, 0 Comments

At 6.00 am this morning my eyes shot open. 

4 days left before I travel and I can physically feel the time tick. 

I've grown accustomed to this feeling - of being completely out of breath as the future of the World depends on whether you manage to meet all your suppliers in time.

I hit my first wall when I approached the printing workshop and realized that I could not hear the calming thumping of blocks being chiseled.  

The ten different radios were not simultaneously blaring Bollywood music. 

The smell of chai being brewed - absent. 

I could feel my temperature rise and my eyes widen. Trying to remain as composed as I could I began lightly in my bizarre mix of hindi-english:

'Bhaaiiiiiiiiiiiiisssaaaaabbbbbbbbbbbbbb, why, why, why!!!! Mausam bhaud Acha!! Storm is gone!! Whyyyy????!!' Forehead permanently crinkled.

We had experienced a bizarre storm a few days before which halted all printing due to pigments reaction to moisture. 

A group of some ten out of twenty printers were chatting away by their tables.

'No work today, Chai Walla's cousin expired '. 

My initial reaction was of complete confusion. Why would an entire factory stop working for the death of someone with whom they never met. 

Some of the artisans don't even know the Chai Walla by his first name. 

I looked at them blankly, got into the car and drove back to my office. I couldn't argue with death. 

I was now REALLY starting to stress.

When I entered my office I realized that the cleaning lady wasn't there. I looked to my phone to read 

'SORRY!! NEIGHBOR'S SHADI. OFF WORK FOR THREE DAYS. HAVE TO GO TO VILLAGE'

If it wasn't a funeral, it was a wedding. Plus I thought that we had reached the end of 'shadi' season, weddings were no longer taking place every two days. 

I sat at my desk and started to lightly tap my forehead on the table. How could they work like this, how unprofessional. 

People passed and married all the time !! 

I continued, silently cursing the day away. 

Until it dawned on me. 

The Chai Walla is an integral part of the factory. His job is to serve lovingly made chai while he sings and teases all the artisans, around four times a day. And he does it well. Therefore his happiness is of the utmost importance and although they may not know his name, they will close up shop to show that his sadness means something to them. That they appreciate his untiring efforts to make them happy. 

The cleaning lady works everyday to make sure that one day she could also throw an extravagant wedding for her children. This is something really important to her. Why shouldn't she spend three days enduring the happiness and stress of her neighbor's important accomplishment. 

I couldn't help but suddenly feel that I was the one who maybe had it all wrong ... 


So here is a little tribute to our Chai Walla's cousin.

(Photos courtesy of ecru)



N.K









 


Magic February 13 2013, 0 Comments

The day always begins bright in Jaipur.

Living with two fabulous girls, the three of us in design, means that without fail, the door bell frantically rings at 8.00am.  

There are two painters who are back for the 100th time to repaint your house.  

The tailor, who is soon becoming a fellow housemate arrives, tangled in swatches of fabrics for your approval.  

A random 90 year old gardener discreetly floats by you in his white 'lungie' to save your attempt at a jungle terrace.  

All the while coffee is overflowing in the kitchen, fresh fruits are being chopped and plans for the day are bouncing off of each person that passes by.  

Your breakfast meeting then simmers and your working day begins.  

You skip pass wild bougainvillea outside the house, waving at your smiling neighbors, inhaling the absolute exotic bliss that is your life. 

Right before you crash.  Hard. Into reality.  

There's been some major confusion.  The design which you handed to the block printer more than a month ago seems to have been used as a coaster for a paint bucket, as a result is no where near being made.  The fabric you imagined your entire line of bed linens to be made in hasn't arrived from Calcutta, and will probably never arrive.  Your order sheets have been misplaced - which technically means you don't exist.

Ah yes, the familiar roller coaster of emotions begin. 

But that is what we love about Jaipur.  One can be sure that a day does not pass uneventful.  No emotions are spared.  All senses are undoubtedly exasperated.  Your breath is constantly cut short by a lingering date that floats in your mind - you know you're never going to make it - 1000 meters of fabric can not be printed in thirty days - there really is no point, you may as well quit while you're ahead. Quit now. 

And then you enter the workshop. The artisans are jolly, they laugh at your impossible orders, they tease you with the potentiality of failure, they reassure you that it will all work out in the end.  And you know it will. Then, with the precision of surgeons they begin.  Chisiling at their blocks, creating colors from dust, stretching fabric so it's tightly crisp and printing in perfect rhythm.  Everything makes sense. 

CHAI BREAK

The artisans are magic. 

N


Our Printing Process January 15 2013, 0 Comments

The thing that gets me the most excited when I first look at a textile, isn't the way it feels, isn't the brightness of its color or the sheen of its weave.  It's the process behind it. Technique has always been an obsession of mine, and the technique of block printing is a fabulous one.

Every aspect of block printing is beautiful.  From the wood block itself, which is meticulously chiseled, by an artisan who has been trained for years to prefect his craft. To the swatches of jute used to hold the pigments on which the blocks are stamped.  

And what I love about block printing is it's lack of pretentiousness.  It does not scream of the amount of work that is put into it's production.





Here's a little bit about  the technique:

Blocks are made in a series, each block represents one color, the more colors in a print, the more blocks are made.

Once blocks are chiseled, and the pigments for a print are made and ready, a different set of artisans (the stampers) take control of the process. The stampers use the chiseled blogs to gently tap onto swatches of jute fabric which hold their respective colors. The drenched block is then tapped on the chosen, stretched fabric, until it dries.

The pressure of the tap while printing has to be of such a perfect mix of firm lightness, that it is enough evidence to differentiate an experienced stamper from another.  

In a block printing workshop there can be up to two dozen stampers, each can produce a different looking fabric, even if using the same print and color, solely based on their tap. 





The outcome of a block printed fabric depends on every person involved in it's making - from the designer to the block printer to the stamper. The look of a fabric can change based on any of these person's styles or moods.  It is a highly sensitive process.  

The perfect block printing quality is when one cannot tell where the print begins, and where it ends. 

It is a beautiful technique of printing, we hope you love it as much as we do, as there are a lot of exciting prints coming your way.

Love from Jaipur,

Nur 


*(images courtesy of Alfred Tarazi)

Every aspect of block printing is beautiful.  From the wood block itself, which is meticulously chiseled, by an artisan with nimble fingers, who has been trained for years to prefect his craft. To the swatches of jute used to hold the pigments on which the blocks are stamped.  

And what I love about block printing is it's lack of pretentiousness.  It does not scream of the amount of work that is put into it's production.


Welcome to our Dream World January 08 2013, 0 Comments




ecru is a lifestyle more than a product.


It's appreciating discreet scents from the jasmine bush that linger outside your door.
Connecting with the artisan responsible for your intricate cotton dhurrie. Allowing the vibrant color of your block printed table cloth to lift your mood. Instinctively rubbing a cashmere throw between your fingers whenever you pass by it. Losing yourself in your freshly laundered towels. ecru is remembering to enjoy the simple luxuries of your home.


We hope you love it, just as much as we love creating it.


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