Re-Searching Design

Image Credit: Henry Wilson

The artisan’s world has always been a faceless one—a world without copy-rights”, as Brigitte Singh once told an interviewer. It is this world she entered thirty years ago, already an unconscious inheritor of a long sub-history of cultural contact and osmosis. She arrived in Sanganer, Jaipur’s hand block- printing centre, as a student of miniature paintings -- and stayed on to embark on an endless digression. It was a journey that proceeded from a destination and ended at a source.

Sanganer was a place where a very global phase in medieval history had survived as a local phenomenon. Drawn in by the resonances Indian fabric prints held for Europeans, and fortified by her cross-disciplinary knowledge in the visual arts, she settled down. Her research and learning took her to two different kind of sources, the actual 18th century specimens and the live skills of traditional craftspeople who still had the capacity to recreate that. It did not take long to relate one to the other in a more productive way.

It ended in her setting up an organized design studio that respected tradition in the best way possible-- by helping it keep alive. She created design in the time honored manner of the artisan -- by immersing oneself in tradition, while at the same time leaving an imperceptible individual signature. Thematically in terms of visual motifs, she largely drew on her first love – Mughal art, where stylization coexists with naturalism so elegantly that the modern researcher can easily draw inferences on the provenance of floral and plant motifs, and thus on cross-pollination in art. If she has carried an idiom that is recognized as authentic (and worthy of imitation), it is the result of painstaking attention to detail and quality. Also she has internalized the whole aesthetic universe and work ethic of India’s traditional block printer. Just like the European of the 18th century, the observer has become an actor and participant in this still unfolding epic of Indian fabric.