It was during Expo 67 in Montreal that Andrée first came in contact with hand block printed fabric, at the India Pavilion. When Andrée came to India to work as her mother’s design assistant in 1978, the beauty of traditional blockprinted fabrics sparked a life long passion for the unique craft. She had to learn more about the art, and Jaipur was the right place to study it, as the local tradition of blockprinting in the sunny desert capital goes back hundreds of years.
In 1984, Andrée and her husband Radhakrishnan Nair started their own company Soma Blockprints in Jaipur, to produced blockprinted fabrics and products in Andree’s designs.
“Why did you move to Jaipur?
Because this is where the printers live”
Block printing with wood blocks became my lifetime passion and career 30 years ago. Now I’m an evangelist for the craft. When I discovered that in India I could transform my drawings into fabric, I was hooked.
I began designing textile prints in India the old-fashioned way, by observation, and by trial and error.
My early graphic art training stood me in good stead. I was able to grasp the technical features of hand-block printing quickly and figure out possible design innovations and options. I have created many block-print designs, at least 500 or more and I continue to train interns and young designers at Soma in order to share my knowledge.
Working with both customers and artisans taught me to create well-drawn, commercially attractive patterns. Often, I will take a traditional Indian design as my inspiration and tweak, re-colour and re-work it. Sometimes, a product may require a more modern print and then I will reference archival European, African and Far Asian designs. As a commercial print designer, I consider myself to be a visual editor. The patterns of the world are available to be re-imagined.
I would say discovering blockprint in Jaipur was a life-altering pathway; I knew at once that I was destined to work with both fabrics and surface design in India.