A CARVED PIECE OF WOOD
HAND BLOCK Printing is the essence of heritage crafts that make India stand out in the world. This textile printing forms an inseparable component of India’s most celebrated heritage. It infuses magic into textiles creating pieces of art that are not just unique but also distinctly beautiful. Hand block-printing is an extremely revered craft tradition.
Hand Block printing on fabric is a fascinating process. India has always been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton since the 12th century. The unique art uses skilfully hand-carved wooden blocks to print designs or patterns on fabric by hand. Though a simple process, it requires a lot of skill and expertise. The process is painstakingly time-consuming, but the result is always unique and that’s the beauty of Hand Block Printing.
BLOCKS are hand-carved of Sagwaan wood (Teak), Sheesham wood (Indian Rosewood), or Rohida wood (Desert Teak or Marwar Teak) by skilled artisans. On the bottom face, the motifs are engraved with steel chisels, of different widths by the carver. Each block has a wooden handle to hold and two to three cylindrical holes drilled into the block for free air passage and also to allow the release of excess printing paste. To soften the grains in the timber, the new blocks are soaked in oil for 10-15 days.
Different types of Block Printing in India
In India, the major centres of Block printing are Gujarat (Kutch, Ahmedabad, Sanganer, Pethapur), Rajasthan (Bagru), Madhya Pradesh (Bagh), Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (Farukhabad) and West Bengal..
Bagh, a village of Madhya Pradesh
The most significant aspect of this craft is the use of natural colours extracted from different flora and vegetables. These do not fade easily. Bagh prints. are dramatic in the use of black and red colours alternately on a white background.
Bagru, a village in Rajasthan
This is one of the traditional techniques of printing with natural colour. The process starts with preparing the cloth to finish printed fabrics through their indigenous methods.
Sanganer, a village in the southern part of Jaipur, Rajasthan
The Sanganeri Print is distinctive by small flower motifs. On Sanganeri ‘chintz’ (printed cloth) usually, yellow, green & blue colours are used as the background. Currently mostly printed in pigment dyes this is the most produced form of block printing.
Practised by the local communities in the vast deserts of Kutch in Gujarat, the double-sided block printed textile is still made a traditional way with natural dyes predominantly with colours like red and blue with geometrical patterns
Block printing process can be divided into three ways :
Direct Block Printing:
In this technique, the fabric (cotton or silk) is first bleached & then dyed (unless a lighter background is desired). Then come to the block printing process using carved blocks – outside blocks first – then the ones to fill colour.
In this resist technique, areas that are to be protected from the dye are covered with a mixture of clay and resin. Then, the dyed fabric is washed. Producing a rippled effect, the dye spreads into the protected areas through cracks. Block prints are then used to create further designs.
This technique is used when the base colour of the fabric is darker than the print. After dyeing a fabric, a chemical is used to remove the dye from the portions that are to have designs in a different colour.
In this labour intensive process of Hand Block printing, the artisans have to maintain utmost precision so as to ensure that the prints are uniform and look visually appealing. Each step of the process requires a great amount of concentration and finesse.
One of the finest merits of hand block printing is its eco-friendly approach. Most of the materials that are used in printing work are environmental-friendly.
From carving a wooden block to transferring an impression onto the textile, the imperfections, the vibrant and meaningful motifs and the slight disparities are what give this art form such a unique charm.
The technique of decorating the textiles by hand with the wooden blocks has evolved over centuries, but most of the original methods remain intact, and each hand block printed fabric has its unique story to tell.
Let’s contribute to appreciating our land’s treasured art form – HAND BLOCK PRINTING !!