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The Block Printing Textiles of India

Block Printing Block With Floral Carvings

Block Prints are a design pattern on a raised surface that is coated with dyes, inks, pigments or paint and then pressed onto another material, leaving an impression of the pattern when pulled away. The results are hand-stamped surfaces with a wonderful array of wood-carved patterns with single or multiple color designs.  It’s quite a simple explanation for a technique with a long history and whose craftsmen work a lifetime to perfect.

Block Printing Blocks made out of WoodImage: Wooden Block Printing Blocks

Block Printing Textiles with Multicolored Application

Block Printing Technique and ProcessImage: Left – Printed Textiles that are drying. Photograph by Jason White. Top Right – Single Color Application (via JOYN). Bottom Right – Multiple Color Application

The Indian textile tradition of block printing originated near Jaipur nearly 500 years ago. Each step of the process requires the precision of hands. The elaborate designs of the rosewood or teak wood blocks are both drawn and carved by hand, they are colored by handmade dyes and also pressed into place by hand. Each block is meant for a single color, so an intricate design with multiple colors may have as many as 16 individual blocks needed to create it. Special skill is required for both the placement of the block layers and the application of pressure.

Block Printed ScarvesImage: Honestly WTF

Block Printed Home FurnishingsImage: Vivaterra

Block Printed Home Furnishings

Block Printed Textiles by Block ShopImage: Block Shop

The craft is practiced by singular artisans or block printing studios producing beautiful fabrics shipped worldwide. It is flourishing more than any other craft in India.

A video created by West Elm featuring the process from drawing to printing.

Due to being an era of mass production, serious challenges threaten the future of the block printing craft.  The knowledge and techniques handed down through the generations now vie against technological advances and social change, but there are those who continue to bring passion and excitement for this ancient art well into this century.


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