The highly complex and time-consuming process of indigo hand-printing became established in the region of northern Upper Austria known as the Mühlviertel during the 19th century. Regional craftsmen and craftswomen went abroad to learn this new technique “on the road”. And now, the knowledge of Mühlviertel-style indigo hand block printing is already being passed on to the fourth generation in the Wagner family. Their large collection of handmade wooden patterns exhibits a broad variety of regionally inspired designs. To this day, these are applied to linen produced in the Mühlviertel.
The processing of linen is inseparably linked with the Mühlviertel’s history. Ideal natural conditions in northern Upper Austria allowed a flourishing textile industry to evolve over the centuries, and the 19th century saw introduction of the indigo hand block printing technique. The figurative painting of fabrics is one of the oldest techniques of fabric finishing and originated in India, which is also where indigo originally came from. Aside from the dye works of the Koó family in Burgenland, which also prints on cotton using rollers, that of the Wagners is the last indigo printing business in Austria to still use hand-crafted wooden patterns. Using these up to 250-year-old patterns, which exhibit regionally inspired designs (such as cornflowers, hops, and ears of wheat), a dye-resistant paste is transferred to the fabric that causes the design to remain white following the dyeing process. The Wagner family also engraves new models in order to experiment with new patterns. Blaudruckerei Wagner’s work is still based on the travel journal (Wanderbüchlein) kept by Karl Wagner from 1869 to 1878, his journeyman years. And the firm continues to promote the networking of practitioners and further development of this textile handicraft as well as to raise awareness of the technique as such through ongoing exchange with textile artists, designers, and educational institutions.