Block Shop Textiles: Indian Imprint
Striking geometries and patterns that call to mind the Bauhaus are hallmarks of Block Shop Textiles, founded by Hopie and Lily Stockman in 2013. Both Harvard grads, the L.A.-based sisters—their studio and shop are in Atwater Village—work directly with skilled artisans in India to bring Rajasthan’s rich tradition of hand block printing to life. Social responsibility is as important to Block Shop Textiles as craftsmanship, with the company supporting India’s network of small family businesses through a decentralized supply chain.
Hopie and Lily were due to unveil an upholstery collection, “which has truly been years in the making,” points out Lily, at ICFF. That’s on hold until later in 2020, but fans can now look forward to bedding instead, another Block Shop Textiles first. Magnet, the hand block printed and batch-dyed linen duvet with bow-tie closures, and its complementary pinstripe sham sets, were just introduced in early May. Here, the Stockman sisters speak about their unwavering yet evolving love for design in the face of change.
How do you view your relationship to textiles?
Hopie: Our intention is to bring joy into people’s homes via thoughtfully, handmade art objects with function. We live by Irish poet John O’Donohue’s philosophy that beauty is essential to enduring the human experience. This applies to design as well. Our design philosophy is also very much informed by our upbringing. My mom’s rules of cooking, and by extension her rules to live by, are quality ingredients, simplicity, and color. This is the sort of motherly magic that imprints itself permanently in one’s brain. With our design work, we’ve found the same to be true; that the right combination of quality, simplicity, and color can make textiles vehicles of joy and nourishment.
Your patterns conjure both California and India. What speaks to you when creating?
Lily: We draw a lot of our inspiration from the architectural details of the buildings where we spend our time, in Los Angeles and Jaipur. More indirectly, we look to artists like Agnes Martin, Anne Truitt, Beatrice Wood, and Alma Thomas. And recently, representational painters like Pierre Boncompain and his gorgeous, tonal still lives have been quite an inspiration. We’re also inspired by writers like Maggie Nelson, Alice Munro, and Rachel Cusk, who write brilliantly about the small-scale truths of ordinary life. In a way, each of these artist’s works gets to the heart of beauty in the human experience, an undercurrent that guides us as we try to build our own small, textile-laden world.
How do you think the brand has organically grown over the years?
Hopie: We’ve gotten bolder with our compositions and color palette, and we’ve widened the aperture on what our patterns can be applied to. We started with scarves, and now we’re designing everything from murals to custom furniture pieces to TV sets.
Can you describe your relationship with the craftspeople you work with in India?
Lily: Our products are a collaboration between us sisters in Los Angeles and five family-run organizations of printers, paper makers, and weavers in Jaipur. Our team in India uses traditional textile production processes learned over multiple generations, with practices that meet our ethical and quality standards by paying fair wages and providing healthy working conditions. Our favorite time is when we go to India, usually twice a year, to prototype new designs, share ideas around product development and pattern design, and also just sit down and catch up over a delicious meal. We are deeply committed to the future of hand block printing. Each year, Block Shop invests five percent of profits to build and implement community healthcare programs in India.
Given your deep connection to India, what are the particular challenges you’re facing as a result of the pandemic?
Hopie: What’s top of mind for us is the health and well-being of our team here in L.A., as well as our team of about 20 people in India. Because India is shut down and monsoon wipes out handmade textile production through the summer, we likely won’t have any new product launches until late fall. That said, we’re committed to supporting our team in India through this time, so we’ve been brainstorming solutions like stitching waste fabrics into robes or quilts, which can happen regardless of monsoon.
How are you adapting Block Shop Textiles to fit in a new reality?
Hopie: We’re adjusting our internal goals and reimagining our business with fewer launches, more design time, and more teaching. One upside is we’ve had time to churn out all sorts of new and different styles of pattern design. We’ve even been exploring some thrilling new production processes, like working with a family-owned wallpaper printing business here in the U.S. In general, I see this period as guiding our industry further towards fragmentation; niche, quality brands with unique narratives, timeless design, ethical practices, genuine customer connection, and slower growth goals that prioritize keeping a cash cushion on hand.
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