Block printing- the ethnic soul of India’s heritage

Written by Harpreet Kaur

Indian handlooms are known world over for their richness, variety and quality. The art of Indian block print textiles is a labour-intensive, painstaking process that has survived from ancient times to the present because of the beauty of the handmade products. Scraps of cloth found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro, an ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilization, provide evidence that block printing was practiced in India as long ago as 3000 BCE. The art flourished in the 12th century under the patronage of the rajas.

Block printing is a form of dying and colouring a fabric using wooden blocks usually on linen, cotton and silk. India is one of the largest manufacturers and exporters in the world. The production is done on large-scale at places like Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. Block printing can be done by wooden and metal blocks.

The process of block printing takes time, team work and, especially, skill. The three main tools of a block printed fabric are the wooden blocks, the fabric and the dye. It can take five carvers up to three days to create an intricate design in a block of teak for use as a printing block.

Master craftsmen Shahmeen Ahmehad has been practicing the block printing art for the  last 44 years. He is practising this art from the age of 10.

“this art can be learned in two years but to master this art, it may takes 7 to 10 years.’’says the passionate Shahmeen Ahmed

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Starting with the process,

  1. first the fabric is washed so it can starch Free.
  2. if Tie – dye is required, this is to be done before printing process and if it is dyed Then it is washed to remove excess color.
  3. For printing blocks on fabric it is Stretched Over printing table and secured with pins.
  4. Once the fabric is stretched, colors are mixed separately and kept ready. so are blocks. Nowadays chemical and synthetic colors are used
  5. next step is to soak the wood in oil for 10 to 15 days to soften the timber and to spread the color even on fabric. Wood blocks are made of teak wood and hand Caved.
  6. Depending upon the number of colors in one design, wooden blocks are made. For example, if a design consist of four colors then four wooden blocks are to be made for printing each colour. approximately a week is required for blocks.
  7. The color is kept in a tray which rest on another tray that contains liquid made of glue and Pigment binder.
  8. when the printing begins, the color is first evened out in the tray. The block is dipped in the outline color.
  9. The block is Pressed down Hard on the fabric to make a clear impression.
  10. Once the fabric is printed it is dried in the sun for original colors. The fact which fascinated me the most was when the fabric was printed it was showing the different color but when it was dried under the sunlight it changes it color to desired color.
  11. After that, it is washed again, so to remove excess color and dried again in the sun.
  12. Last but not the least . It is ironed

It is undertood that  the craft which is simple but yet very elegant. Many designers have used this art of beauty in the collections for uplifting the Indian craft.

Starting with Anita Dongre.

Anita dongre is one of the enthusiastic designer who has launched the line called “grassroot” using traditional dyeing techniques like Bandini, chikankari ,block print etc.Her motive For this collection was to empower every village to become a self-sustainable unit.

The famous designer  Sabyasachi Mukherjee is doing. He has launched his Bridal 2018 collection using intricated Embroidery,semi precious stones, zardozi border and block print.

“ I love block printing and the whole world is looking at India for the best in fashion. So for me, to use it in my designs is like respecting myself and my traditions” says Sabyasachi Mukherjee.

These elite designers have given the new scope to Indian craft which is remarkable.

Not only in clothes but also block printing has been used in quilting, cusions, table cloth And wall print, home decor items

There is one tragedy which was in limelight for some time. An Indian design studio named as People Tree has accused Christian Dior of plagiarising one of its block print designs. Orijit sen claimed that he had been selling this design, with block – dyed patterns on it, for 20 years now, it had all begun in 1990 when Sen co-founded People Tree.

India’s heritage is so rich that block printing has been used for centuries and is still in vogue.

 

 

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Harpreet Kaur

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