Technique: Block Print

Block Print

Block printing is an ancient Indian technique used to create exquisitely patterned textiles. It is the earliest and slowest form of textile printing, but has survived for generations because of its intricately detailed designs, which are often impossible to recreate with other printing methods.

Blocks are typically made out of a high-quality wood that will not be subject to warping. An artist first draws an ornate design, then carves it in relief to form a stamp. To produce very fine details, an artisan may add tiny strips of copper to the wood. When the design is complete, the block is coated with a natural vegetable dye, then applied to the fabric. Every color requires a separate block, making block-printing very time and labor intensive. Each color is typically applied by a different artisan, requiring patient teamwork and precision.

After the printing, the fabric is treated and dried. Finally, it is rolled in newspapers and steamed, then washed once again. Each step helps to ensure that the pigment of the dyes remains rich and vibrant. Each piece of block-printed fabric reflects the rich history of an ancient tradition, as well as the unique style of the artisans who made it.