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After earning a fine arts degree at Pratt and studying traditional block printing in China, John ‘I-Caught-the-Asia-Bug’ Robshaw journeyed to India to find natural indigodye for his paintings. Instead, he fell in love with the fabric-making traditions of the local artisans. The hands-on immediacy and vitality of textiles piqued what was to become a lifelong fascination.
John's forays in Asia have taken him to the villages of Gujarat and Rajasthan; he has made court batiks in Yogakarta, Indonesia; block printed sarongs alongside a family who has been printing for four generations; he has vegetable-dyed ikats in Thailand. In India, John found that he could apply a painterly aesthetic to traditional methods by mixing up patterns and overlapping them in a more formally artistic way. His signature look was crafted: an updated spin on the exotic, handmade object; a vibrant mix of sophistication and romantic allure.
"I want all the colors, techniques and designs from each culture to blend. I redesign themand mix up the processes. I edit them, learn from them, make them my own, but retain their essence. When I need to hire someone to help, I pick the old printers. Their hands are shaky and their eyesight is poor, so the pattern comes out slightly off. I want to feel that human touch," says John.
John has also worked with textile artisans in Vietnam, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and, most recently, Bolivia. "By working abroad, I become a minor character in the lives of the people I work with, and get inspired by what I see and do there. I go to their weddings, celebrate their festivals, get sick with them. I develop relationships with the people who are teaching me. When you look at my textiles, it’s as if you've been on the world tour alongside me."