Meet Abdul Jabbar Khatri

Making designs come true: Abdul Jabbar Khatri  

Abdul Jabbar Khatri’s Ajrakh designs are small with complex geometric patterns, unlike the larger ones of his fellow craftsmen, who default to bigger formations. Khatri knows what appeals to the urban market, and is happy to adapt the style, but will never compromise on technique - double-sided printing, originally done on cotton.

Now 52, he works with his two sons, Adam, 33, and Nomad, 25, who are now tenth generation practitioners. The craft began to see bad days when the water in the village Dhamadka began to reduce and the iron content grew, which meant that natural dyes did not work. After the Bhuj earthquake, the artisan community moved away from here, to set up Ajrakhpur, in order to rebuild their lives and continue their tradition of printing. “Initially, we bought land and now the new village has around 150 houses and artisans work in myriad colours of red, green and indigo,” he says.

Excerpts from a conversation.

What changes have come about while working with Ajrakh?

Earlier, Ajrakh was printed on the floor and we sat and worked. Now, to print a sari we need a higher table, and work while standing. Ajrakh printing has 17 different processes from beginning to end. Originally, each stage of printing was done separately, as the fabric was smaller and loosely attached to the low table, but now we process each sari separately, as it is fixed to the table with pins at the edges. Typical Ajrakh was used on turbans and lungis, used by local customers. Now we have brought the designs onto bedsheets, bedcovers, dupattas and saris. Traditionally, this technique was done on cotton cloth, but due to the demands of the market, we have silk saris. The old technique of washing with camel dung and preparing the base fabric was very laborious, and has been done away. Now, it is difficult to procure dung. Our substitute is liquid soap, and it works very fast.

How difficult is it working on silk?

Silk can easily tear. Cotton absorbs colour, but silk takes time for the dye to catch. To work on silk, we have to apply chuna (lime) but it weakens the cloth. So now we have found an alternative in mud. We still use natural dyes.

Who are the designers you’ve worked with?

The designers use Ajrakh blocks, and are keen to incorporate more colour. For Rajesh Pratap Singh, we worked on Chanderi saris and dupattas; Sabyasachi Mukherjee places orders over the phone. I send him pictures, he tick-marks what he likes and I send him the material.

The exhibition of silk saris, shawls and dupattas is on at Dastkari Haat Studio, 12, Meharchand Market, Lodhi Road until March 9; ₹1,000 upwards

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 7:39:12 PM |

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