Block Printing: An Artform That Has Sailed Through Centuries

Block printing is an art form that has been creating waves in the world of fashion since before the term ‘Fashion’ came into existence. One of the most traditionally rooted artforms, block printing has been a steadily evolving craft adopted by the artisans in our country. From the expert artists from our past to the budding creative talent of today, we have seen the use of this art in everything. Whether its clothes, or gift-wrapping paper, cushion covers, or handbags – block printing has proved to be as flexible and expressive as an artist would like it to be.

How is Block Printing Done?

A printmaking art that is said to have its origins in the 3rd century China, it was around 12th century when our country saw the first of block printing. Popular and flourishing since its very inception, it is the simplicity of this craft that has made it into such a global phenomenon amongst craftsmen of today.

Sometimes also called hand block printing, its process, you will find, is both simple yet intricate. A design is first drawn on a wooden block using a sharp tool. This design is then hand carved on the block. These carved blocks are later kept dipped in oil for a little less than 15 days to get it softened. Once they are ready, they are dipped in the color or dye of choice, and used to leave beautiful impressions on fabric, paper, or other such material.

This is the basic block printing process. Apart from this, there are three other types of techniques which bear subtle yet definite variations amongst themselves.

Direct Printing

The cloth isn’t used directly here; it is first bleached and later dyed in whichever color the artist chooses. Only then is it block printed – first just the outline blocks, and then with color filled ones.

Resist Printing

The name itself suggests the methodology followed here. If the artist wants some parts of the cloth to remain intact or undyed, they can use clay and resin to cover those parts. Thereafter, the cloth is dyed and washed, with some of the color or dye spilling over to the clay covered parts as well. But knowing those parts are well protected, the artist doesn’t worry about it. The cloth is left to dry, after which it is ready to be hand printed with blocks.

Discharge Printing

This method has an artist dyeing the whole cloth, to only remove the dye later from certain parts where they want to put block impressions. That is how one does discharge printing.

Block Printing, Today…

A printmaking technique that uses only natural dyes and is handmade, using no machinery at all, block printing is therefore an eco-friendly artform. The local handloom industry as well the global textile businesses are in awe of this craft. In addition to the innate versatility of this art, a lot of the credit goes to the creatively traditional and unique designs that Indian craftsmen come up with, to carve upon the wooden blocks. A highly customizable artform, block printing is becoming the numero uno choice amongst the leading designers from all over for not just garments, but home decor items, paper, tapestry, and so on.

Anything block printed has a rare combination of earthy and ethnic feel to it, which makes it ever more special to its patrons!

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