The patterns of block print give any space a warm and lived in feel..
The patterns of block printing give any space a warm and lived in feel..

As an artistic individual and a free spirit, I have always been drawn to natural and imperfectly perfect works of art, where you can clearly see it was made by hand and mind. One of my favorite is the process of block printing. India has been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton cloth since the 12th century and the creative process flourished as it was favored by royalty. Though the earliest records indicate the printing started in the south, the craft of block printing seems to have been prevalent all over India.

It starts with the vision of a pattern design on the cloth. How will each pattern look once repeated with itself or another block design.

Thank you to Genevieve Hewson and Lauren Emerson, my favorite fabric designers from Australia for sharing the complete process of block printing and Indigo dying.

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A modern Block Print by Walter G.

Wooden Block After each wood block is carved they are soaked in mustard oil for up to a week to ensure the wood doesn’t crack when exposed to the dry conditions of the printing process. Tiny holes are also drilled through each block to ensure that the wood breathes, allowing the blocks to last for decades. India-Block-Printing-1

Mud Paste Dabu is a smooth paste, which combines well sieved and soaked black earth, tree gum and a powder from wheat grains. The printer gently pats the wood block onto the dabu paste then quickly stamps it onto the fabric. This paste acts as a resist during the dyeing process.

Block Printing The surface used for printing is a saree length table (approx 6 meters) that is padded with many layers of cloth. The printer aligns the first block to the bottom left corner of the fabric and with incredibly precise hand eye coordination, gives a sharp tap the release the dabu paste onto the cloth. This same process is repeated along the length and width of the fabric.

Dusting A fine saw dust is scattered over the wet daub paste once it has been printed to prevent the design from smudging and seals the printed portion from the subsequent dyeing process. 6.drying                  

Drying Once the sawdust has been scattered, the fabric is taken outside so the sun can dry it. This causes the sawdust and dabu paste to fuse together, creating a hard barrier that the dye can not penetrate. 9.drying-fields                  

Indigo dying The dabu printed cloth is next immersed in the deep vat of indigo dye. Natural indigo, from the indigo plant indigofera tinctoria, is not water soluble. It is purchased in blocks, ground into a powder and soaked before fermenting in an underground vat containing a strong alkaline lime powder and water. The strong alkaline reduces the indigo dye, removing oxygen from the liquid and so making the colour chemically available to bond to the cloth. When the cloth is removed from the vat it is green in colour, though as it comes into contact with the air (oxygen) the cloth develops into a rich blue tone. The cloth is dipped repeatedly into the indigo vat to achieve darker shades of blue, drying thoroughly between each successive immersion.    

Wash baths Washing occurs at the start and end of the printing process. The fabric is first soaked in large outdoor water baths for up to a few days to remove any starch, oil, dust and any other impurities. Once all printing and dyeing procedures are completed, the cloth is once again subjected to washing and beating in the baths to remove all traces of the dabu mud, revealing the resist area to be the original white. 10.wash-baths

Indigo Fabrics Each piece of indigo fabric tells a story of where it comes from in that it’s end colour can be influenced from anything from the weather conditions of the time at dyeing to the pH levels in the dye vat to the minerals in the water or the consistency of the dabu paste. However it is in these uncontrollable elements that the beauty of indigo dyed fabrics lies.

Hope this helped in appreciating understand the process and what block printing is.

Renate Karger

 

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It’s Time for Summer Dresses!

Long Weekend Sale in store and online May 20-23

Use coupon code “may24” to receive discounts!

Desigual  20% off
Canadian Designer Myco Anna  20% OFF 
Canadian made Jewellery by Ness 20% off 

This offer Strictly Applies To This Long Weekend Only May 20-23

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We’re back from our trip inspired by the history and culture of this ancient land and also managed to find many great products you will love. 

New Delhi

The smell of New Delhi was evident as soon as we opened our hotel room door on the very first morning. It was a stench of industry seeping in through the lobby which lingered as if the norm. Once out of the hotel, we traveled by private car where we felt like we were in a protected bubble from the everyday life on the street. It was fascinating, disturbing and beautiful at the same. It was hard to ignore the suffering, desperate and hungry when your heart wanted to give. Once we settled into accepting this way of life, it became easier but at times still painful to witness. 

With populations in the millions in an average city, there are many laborers desperate for work. This was one of the ways we could give back. 

The New Delhi Craft Show was massive and was greatly influenced by Europe. From the very first exhibitor I laid my eyes on, to the very last, I was pleasantly surprised by the innovation and forward thinking designs. There were buyers from all over the world and the expectation was to import in larger quantities. We connected with small local businesses as they manufactured by hand and most had an interest in fair trade regulations and quality workmanship.

Jaipur

We flew from Delhi to Mumbai and then Jaipur to follow up with the manufacturers we met at the show. In Jaipur we felt we could breath and we traveled more freely out in the open by Tuk Tuk, which was a sheltered three wheel motorcycle. At times I even traveled alone with our Tuk Tuk guide into places you wouldn’t venture as a tourist and felt completely safe. We spent endless hours in fabric showrooms and small domestic factories which we felt had good clean work ethics.

I was completely in my element on the roof top of a Jaipur factory designing our very own “Karger Gallery” private label bedding, using the ancient method of block printing in natural dyes. From the top of the roof, I could hear chanting and prayers in various religious dialects coming from all directions. It was magical, I didn’t not even realize I worked every day.

Evening out with our friends
We would site see by visiting forts and palaces in the mornings when the sun was mild and bearable and work hard afternoon to evening. My favorite night out was when our Jaipur friends took us to their local hangout. It was situated on top of a fort sitting on the highest mountain. The boys bonded and shared stories over multiple King Fisher beers and I indulged in a popular Indian white wine, Sula. We were advised not to eat anything here as the kitchen was not set up for foreigners. This made us appreciate it even more. We were finally out of the protective bubble enjoying the real life without getting sick.
I have and will be posting more pictures on the Karger Facebook page if you are interested in seeing more of India.

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Peter Colbert has been drawing and painting throughout his life. Winning various awards, from an early one as a child in Toronto to many others in the graphic design, illustration and fine art fields, his work is known internationally and sold throughout the world.

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We finished a fabulous second year in our new building on 14 Mill East and are ever so grateful to have such phenomenal customers. Thank you so much for letting us be a part of your lives.

It never really stops at Karger

The South African shipment is here. After a long journey to Buffalo in the midst of winter, I could barely contain the excitement as we unpacked 45 little boxes all neatly taped and protected in organic materials. You can often smell the fresh grass and smoke from the fire in the village where the baskets were woven. They have arrived on a consolidated shipment in New York organized with our South African partners. Due to our declining Canadian dollar, it has been challenging to keep the prices of “Fair Trade” items imported from third world countries reasonably priced. In order to continue supporting these communities, I have been driving across the border to make up for the dollar by saving a little on high shipping and brokerage costs.

My first experience in doing this was horrendous and it turned into an 8 hour journey as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. From locating the storage warehouse in down town Buffalo to knowing the tariff codes for countries and individual items, it was certainly a learning experience.

The scariest part is having to merge into the commercial lane with the big transport trucks to avoid being flagged into a waiting area so that you can pay your $10 fee for using the border for commercial purposes. My VW station wagon appears trivial and insignificant amongst the 18 wheelers and they often dont make it easy for you to get in between them.

Coming back was a comedy act. You have to get out of your car to be able to hand your passport and papers to the crossing inspector who is in a booth very high designed to accommodate the big trucks. I could barely reach to hand the frustrated and grumpy man the papers which kept blowing away in the fierce wind.

After standing outside freezing and feeling stupidly out of place, they point you to park your bitty car amongst the giants and head into the customs building. If you are there for the first time and don’t have your brokerage papers prepared, you are directed to stand in line to use the one and only computer and figure everything out on the spot. I thought the tall booths were intimidating but if you don’t know what you are doing, a long line of restless importers starts forming behind you. If you can at all relate to a woman in her 50’s, this is when you can really start to feel the heat. I recommend bringing a towel. Seriously, how embarrassing, I had no idea what all the tariff codes were. My broker always did that. Thank goodness this nice gentleman importing car parts helped me as he wanted the line to move on. I would have been there all day!

Once you have these papers printed, you stand in another line to hand them into the customs officer for review and wait in what looked like a giant lock down area. This is where you find out if your goods and car are flagged for inspection. If you are fair and honest, you have nothing to be afraid of. I found this part rather relaxing and finally had time to go to the bathroom but some of the other drivers which were on much tighter schedules paced back and forth anxiously.

Finally someone called my name and I was back at the front of the desk to answer a few questions. “Are you certain these items are from  Africa”?  “The duty is very high for that country. Oh you are from Elora. As in Elora Gorge Elora? I love Elora, he smiles. I used to go there as a kid with my family. Is it just as pretty?” he asked. “Please take your papers and pay the cashier behind the glass and have a safe drive back”. That was it for interrogation. It seems like every time they find out I’m from Elora, they tend to soften up a little. It depends who you get but so far everyone has been pleasant in the customs building.

 

 

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Blue is the new Black in the up and coming fashion scene and has also been spotted in interior design forecasts.

It could be the love of water and sky that draws me to the vibrant blues in Indigo or loving anything organic and natural. The history itself, the pure rawness of hand dyed fabrics and purity of natural materials. Indigo dyes are made from various plants growing in tropical climates. Indigofera is of 750 species.

Long ago it was said that if a man wears his hands stained blue, showed affluence. Indigo goes far back in history touching every inhibited area of the globe and still plays a major roll in economies and culture in West African countries. Now worn mostly for ceremonies and special occasion, the Indigo dying economies are quickly disappearing. Markets have flooded with mass production and artificial dyes and poor working conditions. True indigo is an art, a craft and skill  passed from generation to generation who are finding it nearly impossible to sustain themselves. Today true Indigo is being appreciated by collectors for adding colour and culture to home décor and hung in well designed spaces all over the world.

Today organic materials are stronger than ever and Indigo is a name associated with purity.

This season when you visit Karger Gallery, you will quickly notice the blue influence of Indigo. We bring you a special grouping of Indigo dyed fabrics from Africa. The large pieces are perfect for dressing up a bed, the medium hang beautifully without framing and the small tops a dining table beautifully. Having the fabric framed, would give you a rich and dramatic look as a one of a kind piece art piece at a fairly affordable price.

Thank you for reading and sharing a passion for natural materials art culture and history

Sunlight through Indigo

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Our Green & Sienna furniture has been so well received in the last couple of years that we’ve decided to ship a container directly from Thailand. This allows for improved availability and pricing for our customers. So far it has been an exhilarating and learning experience. Our container was just released from and unexpected customs inspection in Vancouver yesterday, which cost a hefty amount at our expense. It’s now waiting to be put on the next train to Toronto. We can already feel the 16,000 pounds of boxes that will need to be unloaded, built and stored.

I first met Sequioa, the designer of Green and Sienna in New York several years ago and instantly a long term business relationship began. Our core values, tastes and ethics were very much the same. It’s about integrity and living in harmony with people and the environment as much as possible. The Green and Sienna line can be trusted to be just. It is Clean and Tactile, Modern and Rustic, Strong yet Tranquil and would be a beautiful addition in anyone’s home. Should be in our store in less than two weeks. Many our customers have pre booked their pieces a head of time.

 

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It’s official, we have Moved!

We have been working around the clock since January to transform our new building into the right element for our customers and making a perfect home for Karger Gallery. Real change rooms and an office to start. Coffee-Wine bar has been added to  the list but will take some time. Much to our delight the building works! The outside is next. We cant wait to share it with you. Bit by bit it will be transformed into something that was meant to be.

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