Block printing, commonly referred to as hand block printing, is the practise of using carved wooden blocks to imprint designs on cloth. It requires patiently and steadily moving hands in BLOCKS, but the results are astounding. One of the oldest and slowest printing methods is hand block printing. It is said to have its roots in China. Rajasthan and Gujarat are the primary centres for hand block printing in the contemporary world.
PROCESS OF MAKING WOODEN BLOCKS
The process of block printing starts with the production of wooden blocks. Wooden Blocks are the pieces of wood with designs carved on one side and a handle attached on the other side. The craftsman uses seasoned teak wood to make detailed patterns over the blocks. Woods like sycamore, plane, or pear woods, are also used.
Wood craftsman first ensures that the wood he is using should be completely flat. In case the wood is not perfectly flat, he uses his tools to shred the uneven areas. Then the design of the print is copied over the wooden block. Craftsman uses tools like chisels, small hammers, and drills of different sizes to carefully carve the block.
Once the carving is complete, several holes are drilled in the block. After that, the blocks are placed in oil for 2-3 days. This process helps to increase the life of blocks.
BLOCK PRINTING PREPARATIONS
- Firstly, the block printing table is prepared. Over the block printing table, a thick piece of jute blanket is tightly stretched. This provides the necessary elasticity for the wooden block to print the color over the fabric evenly.
- Then, the color sieve is filled with the desired color. A net is placed in it and a piece of jute is placed over it. This helps the block to evenly pick up the color. Colors are prepared by mixing different dyes in a fixed proportion. But some people also use natural dyes which makes block printing more environmentally friendly.
- And finally, the fabric is stretched across the printing table using pins. It is ensured that the fabric is completely flat. And then block printing begins.
The main phase of block printing starts here. The artisan dips the block in the color sieve and places it firmly and steadily over the fabric. He then strikes the back of the block to ensure that there is a perfect impression of color on the fabric. Each succeeding impression is done in the same manner and in a perfect pattern till the fabric is completely printed.
If the pattern contains different colors, then firstly the base color is printed and dried. And after that, the second color is printed.
After this process is completed, the printed fabric is dried and sent for washing.
When the fabric is completely dried, it is sent for washing. Washing gives the final touch to the block printed fabric. The fabric is beaten on the stone and left in the water for several hours. This extracts the excess color and saturates colors.
After this, the fabric is dried in the sun. And with this, the final step of block printing ends. Then the block printed fabric is ready to be converted into final products.