The Ancient Craft of the «Blueprint»

Time tested textile design

The UNESCO headquarters in Paris hosted the international exhibition «The Indigo Way», dedicated to one of the oldest forms of decorative art — indigo woodblock printing.

From November 18 to 21, 2019 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, within the framework of the 40th General Conference of the organization, the international exhibition “The Indigo Way” initiated by the Austrian commission was held. The purpose of the exposition is to show to its visitors textile designs created in a special technique when first a pattern is applied to the fabric and then dyed in indigo color.

This is one of the oldest types of arts and crafts, which exists in many countries but under different names. In Germany it is “blaudruck”, in the Czech Republic — “modrotisk”, in Russia — “indigo woodblock printing”. To print a picture craftsmen use handmade wooden stamps with typical region patterns, universal or Christian motifs. A pattern is hammered with a colorless wax or clay paste on a white fabric, which is then dyed with natural indigo. After dyeing, when the paste is removed, the fabric is left blue with white lines of patterns.

The technique of indigo woodblock printing has been preserved mainly in the families of textile printers and artisans. One of the first records about this tradition was documented in their diaries in the XIX century.

34 designs by the masters from 18 countries were presented at the exhibition. Their works were hung on the fence around UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Representatives of the Austrian UNESCO Commission carefully studied characters of fabric to protect the works from rain, snow or fire.

Russia was represented at the exhibition by Vera Golubeva and Katerina Kondratieva.

Golubeva is a well-known master of indigo woodblock, who is also actively engaged in the revival of the traditional techniques that were used by Russian dyers before. In her works, she combines motifs and compositions of past centuries. Vera brought to the exhibition the “Russian Square” panel, that is made in the tradition of the XIX century — «manernik». «Manernik» is a large canvas, where all the patterns that were once created by a craftsman can be demonstrated.

Katerina Kondratyeva is a restorer, master of indigo woodblock and textiles decoration. At the exhibition, she presented a panel made of two tablecloths, “The Ark,” based on Russian peasant tablecloths of the XIX-XX centuries. Its design reflects traditional patterns and printed ornaments of Russian fabrics of the XVII-XX centuries and folk motifs of peasant woodcarving.

Another interesting exhibit is the work of Estonian artist Õnne Uus, a student of Katerina Kondratieva, who used the motif of traditional Russian embroidery to create an impressive composition. She is the only one in her country who makes indigo woodblock printing.

One of the most striking works of the exhibition is a giant panel, brought by the representatives of Hungary Ildiko Tóth and Zsolt Gerencsér. In the design of the luxurious frame of the canvas were used repeating images of the country’s coat of arms, in the center of the panel — birds — a symbol of peace, friendship and family harmony.

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage included «blueprinting» in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018 to draw attention to the traditional practices of different peoples. The initiative resulted in the exhibition «The Indigo Way», one of the brightest events of 2019, which catalog is available on the UNESCO website.

Irina Sheykhetova