by Brenna McDuffie '15
Block Shop Textiles is the brainchild of entrepreneurial sisters Lily Stockman '06, a New York based painter and a Teaching Fellow in Harvard’s VES department, and Hopie Stockman, a student at Harvard Business School. Their goal? Nothing short of providing the world with art, sustainable fashion and a taste of Rajasthani craftsmanship in the form of the most glorious, one-of-a-kind, sumptuously elegant scarves.
Block Shop officially launched in December 2012, but the process began when Lily first visited Bagru, India. Bagru is a tiny printing village, about 28 kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the city of Jaipur, where generations of hand-block-printing gurus have been using 100 percent natural vegetable dyes to create uniquely rich, luxurious and eco-friendly textiles for centuries.
Lily teamed up with Bagru Textiles, a cooperative of hand block printers founded by Master Printer Vijendra Chhipa, and brought Hopie on board to turn her artistic endeavor into a business devoted to sustainable fashion and social entrepreneurship. "I thought of them as large-scale prints or paintings until Hopie convinced me they would be exquisite scarves and shawls, and a few months later she was in Bagru cementing our partnership with the printing co-op," says Lily. With the company now in full swing, Lily and Hopie work together to design the scarves and then work with Vijendra’s team in India to bring the designs to life using Bagru’s ancient technique. "It's a very important distinction to be made- most printed textiles are screen printed, but our scarves are printed with hand-carved wooden blocks no larger than 8 x 10 inches, so no two scarves are the same," says Lily. The scarves support both artists and an environmentally-sustainable future for the ancient textile tradition.
Since launching in December, Block Shop has reached thousands of customers across the U.S. via Lily’s connection with the blogging community and by word of mouth. The scarves have a winning combination of a desert-chic aesthetic, a social mission and an infusion of the passion and charisma that Lily and Hopie exude as the masterminds behind the business.
"I lived in Joshua Tree for two years, and that landscape and visual culture has had a profound impact on my work as a painter, and that of course breathes directly into the design process for Block Shop." Lily says.
For Hopie, who majored in art at Brown but then went on to business, Block Shop has allowed her to revisit her life as an artist. "I find pattern inspiration everywhere I go, from my mom’s colonial quilts to the inlay stonework in the Amber Fort we visited last summer in Jaipur. For the first time, I think I understand the value of doing what you love – "work" has become a living creative process that makes me excited to get out of bed each morning," she says.
What’s next for Block Shop? In preparation for a new fall line that will launch in November, the Block Shop team is working towards expanding its market by shipping to international customers and is planning to send a mobile eye care clinic to the Bagru community for the first phase of a sustainable health care initiative for the co-op. Cool, right?
[Caption: Lily Stockman, co-founder of Block Shop Textiles, washes one of her designs with the Master Printer in Bagru.]
[Caption: Block Shop Textiles' Herringbone Papaya scarf with the blocks used to hand print the design.]