Sufiyan Ismail Khatri creates hand-block printed and natural dyed textiles, products such as scarves, shawls, rugs and table cloths, using traditional Ajrakh craft processes. The craft of Ajrakh is more than 4000 years old. Some of the traditional textiles were discovered at the ruins of the Fostat city in Egypt. Khatri comes from the Khatri community. Khatri means printer/dyer and the community consisted of master craftsmen practicing Ajrakh printing and natural dyeing. His ancestors used to practice this craft on the banks of Indus river, Sindh. For them, Ajrakh is a way of life and a means of education. The folk-art and the knowledge of printing and natural dyes is handed down from generation to generation orally. The unique feature of Ajrakh is the resist printing techniques using gum-arabica and lime paste with hand-carved wooden block and the expert usage and manipulation of mordants and natural dyes to create jewel like natural tones that are colour fast. Every Ajrakh textile is still made using these traditional methods of printing and dyeing. But at the same time, Khatri innovates with abstract geometries and patterns to create a new visual language for the designers he works with.
These are made using a variety of materials sourced from all over India including Khadi cotton, Tussar silk, Mulberry silk, and Eri silk. For printing and dyeing Khatri uses a range of natural materials. The resist paste for the white outlines is made from the paste of gum-arabica and lime. The myrobalan flower is used as the tanin agent and alum and scrap iron as mordants. The name ajrakh in Arabic means blue, indicating the use of indigo in the print. Traditional Ajrakh involves various stages of dyeing and resist printing, using natural and vegetable dyes and mordents. Red colour is sourced from madder root, alizarin, sappan wood and lac, blue from indigo plant, yellow from pomegranate rinds and turmeric, green from over dyeing indigo with turmeric and pomegranate, and black from scrap iron and jaggery.
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