Sufiyan Khatri: Block Printer and Natural Dyer
1st Jul 2020
The first time we visited Sufiyan Khatri’s natural dye block-printing studio located outside of Bhuj, in the Kutch, we were so excited to see all the colors, all the patterns- we immediately began to imagine all the possibilities. We were so excited we were positively vibrating. Picking up on our frenetic energy, Sufiyan said: “First we take tea, then we talk business.” Lesson learned. Thereafter, upon entering an artist’s studio anywhere, we respectfully await cultural cues.
Since then, we’ve visited Sufiyan several times and he always has the tea ready- along with stacks and stacks of natural dyed block printed fabrics. He knows we’ll spend the day with him- and we’ll review every single latest block design and every single new product, too. He invites us for lunch, prepared by his wife, Hamida. Like many women in this region, Hamida ties bandhani and while our lunch is digesting, and we’re sipping more tea, she pulls out examples of her handwork as we offer our gifts of chocolate. And then we return to the studio and we get down to business. At one point his daughter pops in for a visit. Showing her his long tally of columns of figures, Sufiyan says, “She is so quick and smart! Just like her momma!”
As the afternoon wears on, we begin to narrow our options for block printed natural dyed canvas rugs, cotton quilts and an array of sumptuous cotton and silk scarves. Gathering his thoughts, Sufiyan begins to write the order as Jody digs in her purse for “The Notebook” so she can make a record, too.
Growing up, Sufiyan credits his grandfather, a renown block printer and community leader with installing basic skills in childhood. Lessons included learning to fix his own bicycle or learning to repair plumbing and water issues necessary to any dye studio, to being called upon to serve hospitality to the many guests who visited the family’s atelier. His grandfather insisted Sufiyan understand every aspect of the block printing business- including learning to carve the wooden blocks. Later, working alongside his father, Dr Ismail Mohammed Khatri, who is widely credited with reviving the complex ajrakh double-sided natural dye printing process in the Kutch, Sufiyan perfected his skills.
Today, Sufiyan welcomes international visitors to his studio and he travels to teach and share his knowledge with practitioners all over the globe. Like artists everywhere he soaks up inspiration from many sources. We witnessed that in action last summer during his visit to Wisconsin. From observing the popularity of a local CSA & pizza farm to the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s exhibition, Hearts Of Our People: Native Women Artists, Sufiyan's quick mind took it all in.
Examples of Sufiyan’s 2020 collection: (click on the photos to see these products on our website)