The traditional art of hand block printing is centuries old, yet it is still in vogue. Besides a vibrant look, hand-blocked textiles have an unparalleled artisanal appeal. Here’s a look at the four-step process that goes into handcrafting these beautiful textiles.
First, an artist draws designs of various motifs that need to be printed on a given fabric. These motifs are usually inspired by nature.
Then using the drawing as a reference, wood smiths hand carve these intricate designs on teak wood blocks by removing the unwanted part of the wood so that the raised surface only consists of the design. Creating a block can take 7-10 days depending on the complexity of the design.
The colours used for block printing are mainly natural dyes. There are four or five natural dye colours and the rest are achieved by mixing these basic colours. The dyes prepared from various parts of the plants such as leaves, flowers, fruits, bark, and also from minerals such as Prussian blue, red ochre and ultramarine blue. A few dyes such as lac also have animal origins.
Once the blocks and the dyes are ready, the last part is stamping the coloured blocks on a pre-washed cotton or a silk cloth. Each block is used for one colour so the number of blocks per design depends on the number of colours per design. The hand-block printing artisans stamp the repeating colours and patterns on the fabric- layer by layer, colour by colour. Good printing requires skill and practice in order to create uniformity and clear block printing patterns. Small variations in the printing add to the unique charm of these handmade fabrics. Post printing the cloth is dried and washed again to ensure that the colour stays.