Art of Block Printing: The BL’O’CK Beauty
There are some traditions that are universal. We are highlighting a single craft and how it’s being adapted, rethought and remade for the 21st century. “Block Printing” is an ancient art which has seen several changes in its form from past to present times. It is one of the earliest and simplest methods of printing textiles which requires a lot of hard work and patience.
It is one of the oldest types of printmaking, and has been around for thousands of years. It has its roots in India and has survived the testing of time and is still competing remarkably with machine made products.
The most popular technique of block printing uses a carved material on wood to transfer an image on fabric. The prints are much bolder and often less in detail but have added texture to it which gives a beautiful touch to the fabric.
Block prints are done by detailing of the eye, and precision of the human hand, even imperfections, are part of the beauty of this art. It produces something that is truly handmade, but can be very easily replicated. The block can be reused hundreds or thousands of times. It is relatively inexpensive, and does not require a lot of equipment for printing. It’s a great way to get into printmaking!
Choosing the right wood
Block printing utilizes wooden blocks of Sheesham or Teak because of their hardness and durability. Locally, it is popular as ‘Saag’ or ‘Sagi’. Generally, these trees are preferred because there are few chances of splitting of wood of these blocks.
The wood changes its colour as it ages with time. It is worth noting that Sheesham wood can be preserved for a long time due to its natural oil content. The design to be printed on cloth is finely carved as this wood lacks fibre.
It is worth mentioning that states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in India are rich in these trees. This makes it quite popular among local woodblock printing makers.
How Block Printing Is Done?
The process of block printing starts with seasoning of desired wood for the long life of the block. For effective seasoning to take place, wood is immersed in water for a long duration and then dried. Even the best seasoned Sheesham wood has slight water content in it. This can be removed by hot air drying.
For woodblock printing, wood is immersed in ponds for several weeks for effective seasoning to take place by the local villagers.
The next stage is developing the design of the block. The desired design of the block is marked on a piece of paper. The seasoned wood is then mechanically cut to the required size of the block. Now, the design or the pattern of paper is marked on the wood. This is termed as “likhai”, drawing the design on the block.
Future of Block Printing
Even a small variation in the block printing design adds a special appeal to the handmade print fabric products. A few basic things like washing the handmade bed sheets on the reverse, regular ironing, and keeping stain free products helps to maintain the products for long. People from all over the world prefer block printed products as the maintenance is very easy.
Looking for handmade block print designed products, check out the products at Roysha!