Woodblock printing is an ancient art that originated way back in 220 AD in China but was very soon adopted by the Japanese and spread to the rest of the East Asian countries. It is a technique used for printing images, texts, or patterns on paper or fabric. Woodblock printing on textiles is an art that involves pressing on fabric with carved wooden blocks. It came to India sometime around the 14th century, since then, it has been a part of the culture of textile printing. By the 19th century, it soon gained popularity in Europe where woodblock printing by machinery and engraved metal plates also originated.
Although woodblock printing by hands is a slow process, it becomes highly artistic with ornamental effects as much as a painting. For the same reasons, it is considered a craft like weaving and dyeing.
The process of block printing
Woodblock printing is not an easy process, it involves intricate work requiring a high amount of skill and perseverance. Wooden blocks made from a box made out of lime, holly, sycamore, plane, or pear wood is cut and designed in various shapes and sizes. Cylindrical holes are made in every block for the ease of air passing out and extra dye getting squeezed out. The fabric, usually of cotton, is placed on a bed of twenty-four layers of jute taut to keep the fabric secured and firm.
There are numerous intricate ways to block printing:
- Discharge Printing – is a process in which block printing on the dyed fabric, the portions in which is block printed is on the fabric is cleared of the dye. The dye is then reapplied to the bleached section after block print designs are created using the printer or block.
- Direct Block Printing – in this process, the cloth is first bleached and then dried. After that, printing is done on the dyed fabric using the block.
- Resist Printing- here, the block is used to apply an impermeable resist with clay, wax, or resin. When the cloth is dyed, the portions covered by the resist don’t take the dye. Then, the resist is removed, and the design is created on the reverse side.
The oldest fabric printing technique has stood the test of time and not only gained popularity all around the world but is also a source of income for many people who have practiced this art for generations especially in India. Therefore, a lot of promotion has been done to see that this art isn't forgotten with the newer technologies. With more awareness about handmade fabric and environmentally friendly products, artisans from this field should be encouraged so that this art thrive even more.
Girl Intuitive carries brands, such as, Mata Traders, Dolma and Sevya, that have made a mission to preserve this traditional art by applying it almost all their clothing. From tunics, kaftans, dresses and tops with beautiful colorful prints!