Unique, traditional, artistic: block printing

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By Makara

 

Do you Know What is Blockprint?

Block Print is the oldest, simplest and slowest method of textile printing, allowing the production of unique pieces, some of them terribly artistic.

It is difficult to date and give a real origin to this ancestral method, but it is in India that it is the most mastered, particularly in Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan and its suburbs.

It all starts with a drawing, an abstract, floral or geometric motif drawn on paper. It is during this first stage that the craftsman decides on the distribution of the pre-defined colours.

The design is then carved into the pieces of wood previously selected from the heart of the tree so that they do not contain any knots.

For the uniformity of the rendering, the blocks of wood rarely exceed 25 centimetres.

Once the design has been traced on the block, it is moistened and kept wet with damp cloths for the duration of the craftsman's work.

When the work is completed, the block looks like a flat relief sculpture.

 

A Careful Work

The cabinetmaker cuts a wood block by pattern and colour. There will be as many blocks for a pattern as there are predefined colours for that pattern.

This work, which requires meticulousness and patience, can take several days per block and the cabinetmakers who do it are highly sought after craftsmen. 

The printing work, which will be entrusted to the craftsmen dedicated to printing, can then begin on a large printing table consisting of a wooden or iron framework on which is placed a thick stone slab whose size will vary according to the fabric to be printed.

In order to optimise the quality of the printing, the stone slab is covered with large jute, wool or cotton fabrics which are stretched on the table to provide all the elasticity necessary for a beautiful print.

 

From the Wooden Block to the Fabric

The fabric to be printed is stretched and fixed on the table. The blocks are impregnated with vegetable dyes (natural pigments mixed with water) and then pressed onto the fabric.

Stamping may require hitting the back of the block, as the force of the hand is not sufficient to mark the fabric. The back of the block is then struck either by the craftsman's second hand or with a wooden sledgehammer covered with fabric.

The fully printed fabric is air-dried and then treated to fix the colours. To do this, the craftsmen roll the printed and dried fabric between cloths or paper and the fabric is steamed.

They are then washed again, air-dried and ironed. 

Fabrics printed with this ancient process do not require special care, age well and can be washed at 30 degrees without suffering. 

As each piece is unique and handmade, their charm and beauty lies in their small imperfections.

This short information text about block printing is just meant to give you a brief introduction to the manufacturing technique of the pieces in our collections.

It is perfectly incomplete and we hope that it will stimulate your curiosity about this method and lead you to consult much more detailed explanations of this wonderful craft.

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