I attended a wonderful presentation at Lee Jofa on the Traditions and Techniques of Handblocks. Stephen Elrod, Creative Director, shared with us the evolution and history of Lee Jofa and hand blocked textiles.
Hand blocking began in India (typically a tree of life style) and were brought the the UK. The English loved their gardens and began to replace the exotic flowers on tree of life prints with their English roses…this evolved into the traditional English chintz. What I find particularly fascinating is that Lee Jofa carry the largest collection of handblock designs…20 designs! They use the same hand carved blocks from 80-100+ years ago, mending as needed.
The English company that produces Lee Jofa’s handblock, Turnbull, joined forces with Jim Thompson in Thailand about 7 years ago and now these handblocks are produced in Thailand. This is SO INTRIGUING to me as I was in Thailand last year and toured Jim Thomspon’s house and the silks from his famous design house are amazing. The handblockers typically complete a 7yr apprenticeship…can you imagine?
One of the trademarks of hand blocking is the bleed through from the ink on the backside. In fact, some designers prefer to use the backside for its painterly quality. Thomas O’Brien frequently uses the backside of Tree of Life which currently comes in one colorway. O’Brien is working with Lee Jofa to develop 2 new updated colorways for Tree of Life. Those should come out in the next year or so…looking forward to them.
Lee Jofa is playing with colorways and simplifying some of the layers of handblocking to provide a more modern version of the tradition for select consumers. The result, black backgrounds, metallic silver and gold ink, pretty cool. I also really love the look of the handblocks…I would hang the handblocks on the wall for interesting art work!
All in all, a very worthwhile and fascinating presentation!