Dabu is a practice of traditional block-printing done entirely using hand carved wooden blocks and natural dyes – primarily indigo. This art has been practiced for generations by the Chippa’s – a community residing in Bagru, a small town not too far from Jaipur, India.
Dabu printing is often grouped with other Rajasthani block printing techniques, however it is distinct in terms of its unique designs and process. In fact, many say Dabu designs are similar to Batik designs, although the process for each is very different.
Preparing the Mud Resist
This process begins with the preparation of a mud resist (which is called “dabu”, hence the name of the craft). This paste is made from mud, lime, naturally pounded wheat chaff, and gum.
After the plain cloth to be printed has been washed and dried to remove all impurities, wooden blocks are dipped into the mud paste to create designs on the fabric.
Applying Saw Dust
To aid in quickly drying the mud paste, saw dust is applied over the areas where the resist has been printed. This saw dust also acts as a binding agent, to help the colored dyes from penetrating the design.
Once the mud resist has been applied, the fabric in dyed in large pots of dye. These dyes are natural dyes, coming from vegetables and minerals. This dyeing process may occur multiple times to get a deeper color, with the fabric being thoroughly washed after each to remove the mud resist.
After washing, the areas of the fabric where the resist was applied reveal intricate non-dyed designs, and because of the mud cracking, veining occurs which creates Batik-like designs to the fabric.