The Art of Hand Block Printing

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Hand block printing, a craft handed down through generations is in the forefront of the fashion scene today. Block printing is believed to have originated in China towards early 3rd century. Records of its presence in Egypt and some Asian countries were also found around the 4th century, from where it spread to Europe and other places. India has been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton cloth since the 12th century.

Apart from wood, blocks were made of metals and porcelain also. But wooden block remains the most sought after apart from metal ones which has gained popularity in recent times. The ancient craft has seen a major revival over the last two decades and has moved away from its traditional rural centers to the metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore.

Block printing has become popular because the simple process can create such sensational prints in rich and vibrant colors. Originally natural dyes were used but today they have been replaced by chemical and artificial colors. The main colors used are red, the color of love, yellow the color of spring, blue as in Krishna, and saffron of the yogi.

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In hand block printing, the design is first drawn on wood using a sharp needle and then the desired design is carved using the chisel, hammer, file, nails etc. The printing involves laying the cloth/fabric, which is to be printed, on flat tables and impressions are made using the beautifully carved blocks.  In case of direct printing, the block is dipped in the colored dye and impressions are made. In case of resist dyeing, impression of an impermeable material (clay, resin, wax etc) is made on the fabric which is then dyed in the desired shade. The block image remains un printed and reappears in reverse.

Wooden trolleys with racks have castor wheels fastened to their legs to facilitate free movement. The printer drags it along as he works. On the upper most shelf trays of dye are placed. On the lower shelves printing blocks are kept ready. The fabric to be printed is washed free of starch and soft bleached if the natural grey of the fabric is not desired.

If dyeing is required as in the case of saris, where borders or the body is tied and dyed, it is done before printing. The fabric is stretched over the printing table and fastened with small pins (in the case of saris the pallu is printed first then the border).

Luxurionworld offers many varieties of hand-block printed sarees, dupattas, &stoles. Some of them you may find in categories such as Ajrakh, Kalamkari, Batik. There is a special category for Hand printed & Block Printed Sarees in Bengal.

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