From Artisan Tool to Objet d’Art

Jaipur, India has been home to the art of wood block printing for hundreds of years, producing textiles with some of the most elaborate patterns and colors. Over the years, automation and computerization has taken its toll, but the craftsmen in this region still vie to keep their art alive.

On a trip to India, Salvo visited a few of the local artisans, greatly admiring their work.  He was particularly fascinated by the actual wood blocks themselves – intricately carved pieces depicting certain motifs and patterns, many specific to the royalty that once thrived in the region.

He noted that many of the older blocks, those that had lost their sharpness and were no longer usable for printing, were in great abundance and pieces of art in their own right. True to the message of Found Object, he decided to collect them and display them in a way that could be sold as decorative art.

In the Days of the Mughals

The practice of block printing most likely originated in China about 2000 years ago. The art traveled to Rajasthan in the medieval period where the Mughal artisans began printing and dyeing cottons for royal processions and festivals.

Jaipur is one of the great centers for this style of printing, the process of which is intricate and extensive with more than one hundred specific designs that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Despite the advent of digital printing methods, a handful of local artisans have rejuvenated the craft of traditional hand block printing to a level of popularity that has made its way to the forefront of today’s interior design circles.

Repurposed at Found Object

The wood block is a relief matrix – areas that will depict “white” are cut away while the images that will depict “black” are left intact at the surface of the block. Ink is then applied and either stamped or rubbed on a piece of cotton cloth. For color printing, multiple blocks are used, one for every color.

Over time, about 10-20 years, the wood blocks wear out and do not form an even print. At this time they can no longer be used. Enter Found Object.

Many of the pieces Salvo discovered had been discarded and were covered in print ink. The team decided to mount some of them on metal stands and apply paint to the fronts to highlight the intricate patterns.

They decided to stack some of the big collections of wood blocks. Others were placed in various colorful containers – vintage egg baskets and brightly colored carved wooden bowls that had begun to fade.

These curious wood blocks, each with a unique history, have come full circle – from their humble beginnings as artisan tools to the hands of Found Object, where they have been repurposed, redesigned and elevated to veritable objets d’art.

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