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Top 3 Fair Trade Block Print Organizations in India
If you've taken a stab at using wood block stamps to do hand block printing, you're probably wondering how the masters do it. Although block print artisans abound all over India, three major-ish companies can be credited with reviving traditional hand block printing. Before these top dogs came along, artisans used their (sparse) free time to print in tiny broom closets or on old stumps in the front yard. Now Indian textiles (and not just the cheapo screen printed cottons) pop up in décor blogs and magazines throughout the year.
Anokhi has called "The Pink City" of Jaipur, India home for the last 40 years. For centuries hand block print artisans migrated to Jaipur, and the city is now a "hub" for modern printing. Located about 4 hours south of New Delhi, Jaipur (and the surrounding area) is in a strategic location trading-wise. Thousands of tourists pass through the city each year, although many are duped into buying screen printed textiles.
In addition to producing beautiful block printed textiles, Anokhi has set the bar for socially responsible business practices. The company is committed to providing sustained work for artisans, and provide multiple training opportunities each year. Artisans have excellent working conditions and access to many social outreach projects in the community.
Although Anokhi also produces a line of bedding and home furnishings, they specialize in dreamy block printed tunics, dresses, and jackets. Visit their outlets throughout India, or snag their hand block printed handkerchiefs and airy robes at A Trade For A Trade.
2. Soma Shop
Soma works in the state of Rajasthan (northern India) with small families of block printers. By providing sustainable income to these artisans, Soma contributes to local village economies. They focus on bedroom and living room furnishings, and have branched out into traditionally embroidered Gujarat mirrored quilts and small furniture items such as stools. Soma's products are (unfortunately) not currently available in the USA.
3. Fab India
Fab India is the big mac daddy of hand block printing organizations in India. Their products are Craftmark Certified, a designation that recognizes traditional Indian crafts. Craftmark verifies processes and working conditions, which gives this distinction a lot of weight. With the abundance of screen printed textiles flooding the Indian market, it's more important than ever for organizations such as Fab India to distinguish themselves by adhereing to traditional practices.
In the last few years, Fab India's tunics and scarves have popped up in the US market, and we expect to see a lot more in the future. They're much bigger than both Soma and Anokhi, and have been in business for the last 50 years. They now have over 90 stores in India's cities and towns, and employ over 20,000 printers, weavers, and wood block carvers.
The company has also taken an unusual approach to giving back by encouraging artisans to buy reasonably-priced shares in the company. Suppliers (especially the illiterate) are rarely rewarded with a share in a company's profits, which makes Fab India's model stand out even more. Very fab indeed.
Shop Fab India online by choosing their "International shipping" option.
For more information, check out the following links:
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