Hand block printing on a fabric is a fascinating process. India has always been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton since the 12th century. Theunique art of hand block printing employs skillfully hand carved wooden blocksto print designs or patterns on a fabric by hand. Hand block printing though asimple process requires a lot of skills and expertise. The process ispainstaking and time consuming, but the result is always unique and beautiful.
The wooden Block:
Blocks used for block printing are made out of wood and handcarved by skilled crafts men. The blocks called bunta come in various designsand sizes. The underside of the block has a design etched on it. Each block hasa wooden handle and two to three cylindrical holes drilled into the block forfree air passage and also to allow release of excess printing paste.
Block Printing Process:
The ideal fabrics for printing are of natural fabrics suchas cotton and silk.
First of all the fabric for printing has to be starched freeas starched fabric cannot absorb the paint properly. If the fabric needsdyeing, it is done before printing. The fabric for printing would then bestretched over a large printing table fastened with a pin on the four corners.
In the olden days,vegetable dyes are mainly used for Block printing.But these days different dyes are used for printing. A skilled block printerneeds to be an expert at color mixing. An expert colour mixer can achieve theright colour by mixing tiny drops of different colours by hand. Pigment coloursare the popular one these days as they can be kept for a longer time.
The Printing process:
The printing starts from left to right. The colour is evenedout in the tray which is on a wooden trolley. The printing would start with theoutline colour. When the block is applied to the fabric, it is slammed hardwith the fist on the back of the handle so that a good impression may register.A point on the block serves as a guide for the repeat impression, so that thewhole effect is continuous and not disjoined.
If it is a multiple colour design, the printer would againdip his second block in the colour using the point or guide for a perfectregistration to fill in the colour. The third colour if existent followslikewise. Skill is necessary for good printing since the colours need todovetail into the design to make it a composite whole
Once the printing is done, the printed fabrics are eitherdried out in the sun or left to dry indoors. This is part of the fixingprocess. Once the colours are fixed, the fabric is ready for use.
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