Hand block printing, one of the ancient techniques of printing fabrics, has been in vogue for quite some time. From beautiful motifs to contemporary designs, there is a certain contemporary vibe to this art. Mostly done on fabrics like chanderi silk, chanderi cotton and kota doria, one can also do it on other fabrics as well. Found on different apparels like hand block printed suit, anarkali, sarees, palazzos and kurtas, these prints have also found space in home décor. Beautiful bedsheets, curtains, cushion covers and table spreads are adorned with hand block printing and add a contemporary vibe to the space.
While hand block printing has its roots in Egypt, it is also a part of Indian culture and heritage. Mostly done in Rajasthan, hand block printing can also be found in areas of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhatisgarh. All these areas have their distinct motifs and it is a pleasure to see techniques and designs coming together to form something incredible.
Here are a few interesting facts about hand block printing:
1. How does it start?: The fabric is pre-washed for minimal absorption of dyes. It is then dyed and dried. The dyed cloth is spread on a table and secured using pins.
2. Execution: Hand block printing is a skill which is perfected with time and practice. Block printing is done using a block of wood, preferably teak, which is hand carved and soaked in oil for a week for proper usage. The block is then dipped in dye and stamped on the fabric. The stamping requires skill too; a good artisan will know the amount of pressure needs to exerted on the wood and the time that it should be exerted for.
3. What makes the designs unique?: Since hand block printing is executed manually, there are always some irregularities in the print. And this very fact makes hand block printing unique. Hand block printing is the testimony that nothing is perfect and the beauty lies in imperfections.
4. Prints: While traditional prints and motifs include leaves, branches, elephant, peacock, feathers and flowers, Indo-western prints have also found place in hand block printing.
5. Colour: Traditionally, hand block printing has been monochromatic. It is now that multi-coloured hand block printing is also executed. This requires even more care than the monochromes. Also, not every colour can be executed with hand block printing. Colour combinations are tested and then executed.
6. What makes the print look bright: The post-print fabric is sun dried so that the colours look brighter and lively.
The uniqueness of hand block printing lies in the fact that it is done by skilled artists who have been in this field for decades. This art is passed down to their children who carry forward the legacy. There are entire villages in Sanganer, Rajasthan, which solely work on hand block printing and sustain themselves. This art is a part of our culture and help us connect with our roots.