Mary Mulcahy, Founder

"I launched Les Indiennes in 2002, a happy result of my own yearning for beautiful hand-blocked textiles. I had a vivid picture in mind of naturally dyed cotton, with airy patterns of big, single colored motifs. Unable to locate anything anywhere, and utterly possessed by the idea of these fresh, simple designs, I decided to go to the source and create my own.

A craftsman named Srinivas from a tiny village in southern India responded, and I knew at once that his work was what I wanted. Srinivas is one of very few craftsman who still practice the ancient art of kalamkari, an extremely complex printing method.

Because of the kalamkari process, Les Indiennes is and will always be a small and exclusive company. The numerous steps and time required simply cannot be rushed- however, the process can be slowed down by monsoons, festivals, etc.!

I would say that my guiding light is seeing exquisite beauty in what many consider a humble craft and translating these designs and products for the western market. I am always working on new block-print patterns and forging new partnerships with artisans in developing countries. The joy of collaborating with skilled craftsmen and women and, the honor of contributing to the support of families and villages are rewards that I frankly did not anticipate, but that now have become essential aspects of my work."

The Kalamkari Process

Fabric Preparation

Les Indiennes must initially be softened and bleached so that the fabric will feel as luxurious as possible and the colors, as vibrant. Bales of organic cotton are repeatedly rinsed and beaten against large rocks, then laid out on the grass to bleach in the intense Indian sun. If it rains, this step must wait.

Block Printing

Once the fabric is sufficiently softened and lightened, printing begins. Craftsmen dip hand-carved teak blocks in dyes derived from plants, roots, earth, and rock. Great care must be taken in pressing the pattern to the cloth. Then, the printed fabric is air dried for at least two days.

Color Fixing

When the fabric is dry, it must be steamed over a fire of rice chaff to fix the color. Workers next haul the cloth to a stream and rinse the fabric to remove excess dye. Colors emerge from different streams in different tones¬--nature’s little tweak!

Final Touches

After the color is fully saturated, the fabric undergoes another round of softening and color-brightening. The fabrics are boiled, laid in the sun once more, and dipped in a natural, color-intensifying solution .

With all of these careful steps, it is not surprising that Les Indiennes arrive beautifully broken-in and soft, with sweet and pleasing hints that they are made entirely by hand.