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Block Printing

15 In 12th century, several centers in the south, on the western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton.
On the southeastern coast the brush or kalam (pen) was used,
and the resist applied by the same method.
In the medieval age, printing and dyeing of cottons was specially developed in Rajasthan.
In Gujarat,the use of wooden blocks for printing was more common.


Block printing is a special form of printing first developed in China.
The earliest known example with an actual date
is a copy of the Diamond Sutra from 868 A.D (currently in the British Museum),
though the practice of block printing is probably about
two thousand years old.


Trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha’s time. Printed and woven cloths traveled to Indonesia, Malaya and the Far East.
In the 17th century, Surat was established as a prominent center for
export of painted and printed calicos,
covering an extensive range in quality.


The Block printers of the western region of India hold the skills of the block carvers of Pethapur in very esteem due to the latter’s expertise
in the making of colour seperations of the design, registration marks,
intricate relief carving and air vents at the back of the block.


The Sag wood used for the block is seasoned and prepared;
a chalk like paste is applied to the upper surface
allowed to dry.
The pattern , whether based on geometric forms or comprising of motifs
derived from leaves, flowers, fruits, and figures of animals, gods and goddesses
is traced on to the wood.


The negative space is then carved out with chisels
especially made by the craftsman for this purpose.
The pattern is then raised in deep relief by further scooping out the negative areas
with the aid of a manually operated hand drill.
The karigars are originally of the Suthar or carpentar caste
and they make furniture, doors,windows as well as blocks for printing.


In early 19th century, the craft received a great impetus due to Gujarat’s flourishing exports of the Saudagiri Textiles to Thailand;
the still extant samples of these printed fabrics are a testimony to the excellence of
the state’s block making tradition.
Since then, the count of 300 karigars in Pethapur has drastically reduced
due to the advent of screen-printing.
The few craftsmen that still practice their hereditary occupation mainly supply blocks to private designers and organizations in Ahmadabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.



Tools in use:
*hathodi – hammer
*guchyu – drawing tools
*tichaniyu– impression tools
*ghasaniyu – testing tools
*thapadi – mallet
*carving chisels:
kalami, golputhiya, gala kathavanu, katni choras, thaso
*sayadikamathi – drills
*kanas/atedo – files
*bekhaniya – wooden pins


Block printing has a different term in different states :
* Andhra Pradesh ~ Kalamkari
* Kala Dera ~ Dabu
* Gujarat ~ Ajrak
* Rajasthan ~ Bagru
* Madhya Pradesh ~ Javad, Bagh

I myself love the block printing.
I keep on trying it on my own fabric.
Here’s my till date collection 🙂


#All pictures (except my collection) are taken from Google, I have just edited them according to my blog. 

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