The Process of Block Printing
In a world increasingly dominated by digital technology and mass production, traditional block printing stands as a beacon of artistic craftsmanship and cultural heritage. This centuries-old technique, deeply rooted in various cultures around the world, preserves the essence of hand crafts and creativity. With a mesmerizing process and exquisite outcomes, block printing remains an irreplaceable art form that continues to inspire contemporary designers and enthusiasts alike.
Traditional block printing involves a meticulous process that demands the expertise of skilled craftspeople. The first step is designing the pattern that will be carved onto a wooden block. This is a critical phase, as the beauty and intricacy of the final print depends on the precision of the design. Once the design is finalized, the master block craver carves it into the block, meticulously removing the unwanted areas. Studying the craft of block carving is one that takes years to master, as we learned on our walking tour of Bagru with Avinash from The Wabisabi Project during our time in India. This skill is one that thankfully is still practiced and passed down through generations, and the rich history of this traditional craft is still practiced across India. This block then becomes the printing tool for the pattern. Once the block is carved it is then cured for 3 days in mustard seed oil.
Next, the chosen fabric is prepared by washing and drying to ensure it is free of any impurities that could interfere with the printing process. The block is dipped in the chosen ink, and the craftsperson – in our case Parwun from The Stitching Project, carefully places it on the fabric, exerting even pressure to ensure a clear and crisp impression. The process is repeated across the entire fabric, and each subsequent block aligns perfectly with the previous prints to create a seamless and harmonious pattern. Each colour in a design means a different block, and each block fits together like a jigsaw to create the final design. Every block that is made and printed with ensures vital work for the team at The Stitching Project who we partner with in production. This translates to cost for the customer, as more time and work has gone into producing the final garment throughout the process. Designing and seeing our prints come to life is one of the great joys of what we do, and our bright, bold and playful prints are unique to our brand in its storytelling and process. From being designed in Freemantle, Western Australia, to being handmade in Pushkar, Rajasthan, to being worn by our loyal customers across the world!
Block printing boasts a rich diversity of styles and techniques, varying from region to region. For example, India is renowned for its intricate and vibrant hand-block prints, with Rajasthan, Gujarat, and West Bengal being prominent hubs for this art. In Rajasthan, block printing has been practiced for over 500 years, and was introduced in the Jaipur region of Rajasthan by the Chhipa community. Some of the best block printers are now found in Sanganeer, where one can also learn about the history and processes of Block printing in The Anokhi Museum. Traditional block printing is not just an art form; it is an integral part of cultural heritage. Passed down through generations, it holds deep cultural significance and tells stories of the past. Craftspeople play a crucial role in preserving this heritage, ensuring that the techniques and knowledge are transmitted to future generations. By supporting and appreciating traditional block printing, we contribute to the preservation of these artistic traditions and the livelihood of the craftspeople who keep them alive.
Apart from its cultural significance, traditional block printing also aligns with the principles of environmental sustainability. Unlike mass-produced textiles that utilize harmful chemicals and generate excessive waste, traditional block printing relies on natural dyes and biodegradable materials, making it a more eco-friendly choice.
Using traditional printing aligns with our mission for a slower fashion practice using centuries old practices that are often threatened by the growing demand from western countries and lack of education of true block printing. Shortcuts are often used with cheap fabrics and harmful chemical pigments, as well as new digital technology that replicate designs and prints. Here at The ANJELMS Project, block printing is an important medium for us to communicate and tell stories in collaboration with emerging visual artists and designers, with the craftspeople who sustain the traditional processes of this craft. A constant conversation between creative craftspeople across the world.
In today's world, where uniqueness and craftsmanship are more recognised and celebrated, traditional block printing has experienced a revival. Designers and consumers such as us here at The ANJELMS Project, are increasingly drawn to the distinctiveness and authenticity that this art form offers. Integrating hand-block prints into modern fashion, home décor, and art has become a way to showcase individuality and support ethical practices.
Traditional block printing is a timeless art form that continues to captivate and inspire people worldwide. Its intricate designs, rich history, and cultural significance make it a treasure worth preserving. As we celebrate this ancient craft and the craftspeople who pour their heart and soul into every piece, let us also recognize the beauty and sustainability of handmade products in an increasingly mechanized world. By embracing traditional block printing, we not only cherish our past but also pave the way for a more sustainable and creative future.