Love that new block print kurta that’s the latest addition on your fave e-commerce site? Of course, the pieces are so beautiful! Ever wondered how the piece is made? Our country has been known for its distinct arts and crafts since ancient times. Artisans from various cultures employ several types of hand printing techniques to beautify a fabric, hand block printing is one of the most common styles. Having its origin in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the style has evolved to gain popularity in other states as well.
The process involves printing the same pattern across the stretch of the fabric with a wooden block, with precise measurements by hand. In modern times, linoleum and rubber blocks are also used. Perfected over generations, it is one of the oldest and simplest techniques, but it is slow since it is time-consuming. It is, however, capable of producing extremely aesthetic effects, some of which are impossible to achieve by other means.
History & Origin of Block Printing
There are certain theories and records of Block printing origination, it originated in India – Bagru in Rajasthan is considered as the hub of Block Printing across the globe besides some handy contributions from parts of Sanganer, Pethapur, Farukhabad, and Ahmedabad as well. The Chhipa community has kept living this rich tradition of art for centuries, where it’s an ancestral art and they have been involved in it for generations. This community has been prominent in this business for ages and has artistically passed the Block Printing Art from one generation to another.
What materials can be used for Block Printing?
Different materials are used to accomplish Block Printing; these materials are a common feature whether you opt for any sort of design. The following materials are generally deployed:
- Carving tool
- Wooden Block Object
- Ink for Block printing (Natural Colors, Indigo Dye, etc.)
- Dye and Washing equipment
How is the Block Printing Process Deployed?
It is a process that is accomplished in different stages with a careful eye on every stage process is mandatory to avoid any discrepancy – Generally, it involves Block Carving, Dye Application, Fabric Treatment, Printing, After Treatment Process (Final). All the steps involved are explained in detail below:-
- Block carving: – It is indeed the foundation step to begin the block printing process and the artisans make use of handy tools like chisels, drills, and hammers to carve out intricate patterns and designs onto the wooden blocks. This needs to be taken care of properly as it might cause loss of shape and awkward design consequently.
Once the carving process is completed, these wooden blocks are immersed in mustard oil for at least 7 days; the main reason is to avoid cracking in the blocks owing to their vulnerability in dry conditions. Apart from that the carvers also encapsulate drilling holes in the wooden blocks for air passage, it’s vital to enhance the lifespan of the wood.
- Dye Application: – Once the carving process is accomplished the next important task is applying dye to the wooden object. Generally, this is fulfilled with the aid of a tool called “Sieve”.
To implement it, the block of wood is smoothly pressed onto the texture of dye so that it could be well used to apply on the fabric accordingly. This also requires articulated perfection to exhibit to maintain the perfection of the final object.
- Fabric Treatment: – BagruKala maintains the consistency of every stage of the process before supplying it to the market. Being based in Bagru we have all the infrastructure and artisans required to manufacture the materials before it reaches the market. The treatment of the fabric for block printing is initiated by washing it to remove all the unwanted starch from it.
Various Fabrics such as sarees and dupattas generally require dying and it’s achieved before doing the printing procedure.
- Printing: – The block printing process is incomplete without printing the block and it’s the most vital aspect of the whole process. As it’s a purely handmade work and the fabric is laid on the printing desk or table by the artisan with a full stretch length of the fabric and it’s held with tiny pins for the placements.
There is a unique technique that’s deployed by the craftsman to have opulent results of block printing on fabric – Printing is usually done from left to right, a wooden block is used to apply the color on the object – The wooden block is dipped into the palette color before applying it to the fabric material. This activity is engaged alongside the whole cross-sectional area of the fabric.
- After Treatment Process (Final Stage):- This is the final step of the block printing process where the artisans spread refined sawdust on the applied wet dye on the fabric to avoid any sort of blotch on the design.
It’s a well-crafted process that requires quality analysis at every level to avoid any sort of miscue that may affect the consistency of the design.
Types of Block Printing:-
There are various types of techniques used in Block Printing according to the regions, some of them are-
- GOLD AND SILVER DUST
Techniques Of Hand Block Printing
The area of the cloth that is not to be colored is covered with resin and clay paste. Next, the fabric is dyed with the desired color; at this point, the dye penetrates the fractures, creating a wavy look on the material. Following that, the fabric is block printed.
The fabric is the first colored color. A chemical is used to remove the dye from the part of the fabric on which the designs will be produced. The printed portions are then treated to allow them to be recolored.
Direct Block Printing
The material is bleached before being dyed in the appropriate hue. Then, using carved wooden blocks, block printing is done on the borders and then inside the borders. Cotton or silk are the fabrics utilized here.
How Has Covid-19 Impacted The Block Printing Community
It is estimated that around 5,000 artisans, both women, and men, participate in the areas around Bagru who have been carrying this craft in their homes for generations. More than 500 families are involved in the hand block printing business.
As the pandemic took force in 2020, there was a drastic 70 percent drop in their turnover, which heavily impacted them. With the increasing prices of the raw material and the products being sold at discounts, the community has suffered from the lack of financial sources. There have also been issues with the lack of face-to-face interactions with customers as well as language barriers that restrict the opportunities.
A little hope comes with orders trickling in from online sellers and smaller boutiques during this time, but the impact has yet to be recovered. The future seems encouraging for the community after the vaccinations pick up but the financial reliability is still heavily dependent on the online sales and COVID-relief funds.
The pandemic has had the world shift towards the world of online and small businesses have been slowly focusing on the traditional crafts. Despite the pick-up of the crafts this year, bringing it back to the pre-COVID pace is still a challenge the community needs to overcome to flourish.