Block Shop is a textile company that marries the traditional Indian hand block printing process with a modern California aesthetic. A collaboration between sisters Hopie and Lily Stockman in Los Angeles and a family of printers and dyers in Bagru, Rajasthan, the entire Block Shop process is manual: design on paper, print with wooden blocks, and dye in small batches – the same way it’s been done in India for more than three centuries. No two textiles are exactly alike.
Block Shop began as an art project in 2010. Lily, a visual artist, was studying painting in Jaipur when her search for the best natural dyes led her to the print shop of Viju, a fifth-generation master printer. After creating a series of unstructured paintings on cotton-silk fabric, Lily sent prototypes to her sister Hopie in California. Six months later, Hopie traveled to India to meet Viju’s family and see the process for herself. The sisters formed a partnership with Viju and what is now Block Shop’s cooperative of printers.
We spoke to the sisters about their work and inspiration.
What is your background and how have your past experiences fed into your art?
Hopie: Lily and I have two more sisters, and the four of us grew up on a farm. We built forts, painted murals in our garage, put on plays, held corgi weddings and created costumes for all of the above. When we started Block Shop three years ago in our apartment living rooms –Lily was in Brooklyn and I was in Cambridge– it felt like we were coming back to the shared creative brainspace of our childhood art projects. Same haircuts, same obsession with drawing patterns. We both studied painting and printmaking in college and draw inspiration from our favorite artists. Josef and Anni Albers, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, and anonymous Rajasthani Tantra paintings from the 1980’s are a few that we keep returning to, for their exploration of strong geometries, repeated patterns, and bold compositions.
Do you feel that your environment feeds into work and if so, what makes your work distinctively Californian?
Block Shop is equal parts California (where we design) and Rajasthan (where we print). The architecture of downtown LA has been a muse– the curved lines on the defunct marquees of the deco movie palaces outside the studio worked their way into our Magnet pillows. Same with Jaipur; we keep coming back to the monoliths of Juntar Muntar, the massive astronomical instruments built by a Rajput king in the 1730’s, which are so minimal and sculptural they look like they could be early Modernist architectural experiments in Southern California. Our desert palette of Joshua Tree –sandstone peach, earthy ochre, soft black, deep indigo– ties the two worlds of Southern California and Rajasthan together.
What are your top 3 studio essentials?
Our fuzzy mutts, Otto & Dolly
Adjustable saw horses + wooden doors. They work for everything: desks, fulfillment station, portable market displays, impromptu dining room table for feeding guests in our studio.
Our textile library. Women’s Work: Textile Art from the Bauhaus is a favorite…we have so many we love we started a Block Shop Book Club on Pinterest.