CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan India

Block Printing Art From India

CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan India

Explore the ancient brock printing art form that is thought to have been around since the 12th century in India.

Some historians claim that block printing in India has been around for over 2000 years while others claim that in the early days Indian artisans perhaps borrowed techniques from Chinese artists and then turned it into a culturally distinct art form. All through India, different types of dyes and patterns have become synonymous with different regions of the country. At some point, hand printing was replaced by screen printing for a faster and more efficient output production. But in the recent years, hand block printing in India has seen somewhat of a resurgence as more and more artist communities are going back to doing this by hand giving new meaning to the phrase – Made By Hand.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan India

The process of hand block printing in India

Block printing is quite a laborious process. With each new pattern, new blocks need to be designed and carved. A design, either traditional or modern, is first drawn onto paper and then transferred on to a block of wood. There are certain types of wood that are typically used for these block – teak or mango wood being the most popular. A separate block must be made for each color incorporated into the design.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan IndiaThe fabric used needs to be also treated to accept the designs and colors. Often treatment of the fabric takes several days and it is dipped and treated several times strengthening the fabrics.

Block printing colors are also an important part of the overall block printing process. Most colors are either made from natural dyes. After the fabric has been cut to size, the colors have been prepared, and the blocks are all ready, the artisans can start to print.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan IndiaThey first lay the fabric out across a long table and draw a chalk reference line. They then dip the block into the dye, press it firmly onto the fabric, and then hit it with a mallet or with their hand. This process is repeated over and over again until the pattern has completely covered the length of fabric. If there are multiple colors in the design, the artisan lets each color dry before applying the next, each with a new stamp. It is extremely time consuming and requires precision so that there are no breaks in the motif.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan India

CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From India Hand blocking tiger motifs

Block printing museum in Jaipur India

In the city of Jaipur which was considered the royal seat of India, there is a beautiful museum dedicated to the art of block printing. The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing is located in a magnificently restored haveli (mansion). The museum is dedicated to the preservation and creation of hand-printed textiles. The museum houses many permanent collections as well as changing exhibitions which cover a broad range of designs and materials from artists and artisans. The collection consists of a varied selection of block-printed textiles along with images, block tools and other objects that help convey the story of ancient and modern-day block printing art.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan IndiaThe permanent collection showcases a range of natural and chemical processes including dabu mud-resist printing, and gold and silver embellishment. A display of wooden and brass blocks along with carving tools sheds light on the prep-work involved in producing block art. In the case of hand block printing, which is the more traditional form of block printing, the blocks are also carved out of hand.

The visitors have an opportunity to interact with the artisans and also try their hand at block printing and block carving. The museum conducts workshops for schools and colleges and provides either a general tour or a special exhibition tour.

Block printing regions in India

In India, hand block printing has gained a lot of resurgence as many government run as well as private co-operatives use Indian block printing fabrics in their designs. Even western boutiques and fashion houses have invested in providing work for the artisan families. This has given generations of artists a way to keep the block printing tradition alive by giving them a steady income stream.

The most important centres for block printing in India are Sanganer, Jaipur, Bagru and Barmer in Rajasthan, Bagh in Madhya Pradesh, Anjar, Deesa, Ahemdabad, Jetpur, Rajkot, Porbandar and Bhavnagar in Gujarat, and Pilakuan and Farukhabad in Uttar Pradesh. These four states of India continue to dominate the art of block printing even today.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan IndiaIn the town of Bagru, hereditary carvers chiseling designs traced onto teak. In the center of town, families of printers stand before long tables covered with fabric, dipping blocks into color and stamping them by hand to ensure a strong print on the fabric. Next the dabu printers, another specialized group, mix a batch of mud made from clay, lime and fermented wheat and sift it with their bare feet through muslin so they can print patterns onto fabric before bringing it over to the indigo vats, operated by yet another group of men. Even the washing is done by a dedicated group called the dhobis, who stand all day waist-deep in water baths.CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan India CulturallyOurs Block Printing Art From Rajasthan IndiaIn the town of Ranthambore, many women led and managed co0operatives employ simiar techniques for treating, coloring and hand block printing fabrics into items like clothes, blankets, pillow cases and toys. These items are then taken to state led co-opertatives fairs all over the country and sold to the public and wholesalers outlets. These women led co-operatives employ local women and give them an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves to help improve their way of living as well as boost self-esteem by allowing them to be financially independent. Once such organization called Dastakar Ranthambore has been around for more than 25 years really making a difference in the local community of Ranthambore.

We have a blogpost and a video of how Dastakar Ranthambore is making a change in the lives of its women co-operative members and the community, you can check it out here.

Block printing art or any art for that matter, gives us such a beautiful way to connect with the past and learn about the history of a community and a people. Preserving some of the dying forms of art is not only essential but also a responsibility. And as consumers, we too can support initiatives like Dastakar and others who are working at a grassroots level, by directing our purchases directly to the artists and artisans working in these fields.

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Explore the art of block printing in India by CulturallyOurs



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  1. Nancy Hann says:

    Beautiful work and it looks difficult to line up the various colors in each figure. Thanks for sharing about these artisans.