The magic is in the hands
Tord Agge is concerned. A “frost” has gotten into the pattern Morfars trädgård (Grandpa’s garden). A frost is a small misalignment, a millimeter or so, that shows when all the colours in a pattern are printed. It may be that the template ended up slightly out of place on the printing table.
Morfars trädgård consists of twelve textile colours, all hand mixed by mixing master Jesper Jobs. He runs Jobs Handtryck along with his wife Åsa. “I’ll have to look into that next time we print,” Tord Agge says, sending a thoughtful gaze out over lake Siljan just outside his window.
As he stands between two 30-meter long printing tables with his side fringe and his thick-rimmed glasses, Tord could easily be a character in the TV show Portlandia. The sturdy tables were built by Jesper’s father Peer Jobs in 1944. Peer founded Jobs Handtryck in Västanvik, near Leksand in that same year. His sisters Gocken and Lisbet drew the patterns. Colourful, optimistic and clearly sprung from the Swedish soil; rhubarb stalks, elderflower and thistles. When WWII ended and Europe breathed a sigh of relief, the textile print shop in Dalarna was an instant success.
And while other textile print workshops have turned to more industrial manufacturing, more digital processing, Jobs Handtryck remains essentially where it started in 1944. They take on a new pattern about once a decade; developing the colors and building the templates is expensive.
“We can’t follow trends. We are slow and must be so. We do know which trends are developing, but there is simply not the time to follow them,” Åsa explains.
Instead of anxiously trying to catch up with the latest trends – say, pineapples and monstera leaf patterns – Åsa and Jesper Jobs make sure their fabrics and patterns maintain a timeless quality. Interestingly, most of Jobs’ patterns would not seem out of place on something like the hip It’s Nice That’s Instagram account: presently they are in par with modern graphic design.
In the basement of the print workshop, Jesper runs his colour mixing lab. Twenty years ago he started his education in colours, learning from the old mixing master, a former painter. In beautiful, enameled buckets Jesper mixes the colours to be printed on the fabrics. The colour chart from the pigment supplier in Germany gets thinner every year as pigment after pigment gets taken out of production, probably for good.
“Print shops that mix colours digitally get by with fewer primary colours, but as we do everything by hand we need more colours to get the nuances just right. So far so good, all I have to do is play around with the colours a bit more,” Jesper Jobs says.
Up in the print shop, printer Tord Agge and Jesper walk along opposite sides of the printing tables. They pull a wide scraper back and forth across the template. Right in the middle, the scraper changes hands seamlessly from Jesper to Tord, Tord to Jesper. They work in silence. Watching the paint bubble and sink into the fabric is contemplative. The two printers work in complete, quiet concentration. In one day they can print twelve colors on 60 meters of fabric.
“It is easy to fall into the ‘printer’s trance’”, Tord Agge says. He has been a textile printer for twelve years. Before that he drove a forklift.
“I quickly learned to see when a print was going wrong. But it took time to learn to detect why. It could be the template, the grooves in the printing table, the colour…. It takes a bit of thinking.”
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