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Behind the Scenes – Block Printing

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What is Block Printing?

Block printing is an ancient textile tradition that originated in the Rajasthan Desert region of India centuries ago and is one of the oldest types of printmaking. It is a labour-intensive process which requires tim e, teamwork and a tremendous level of skill. Despite faster and more modern methods of textile printing, block printing has been kept alive for its authentic and unique finish.

See the 8 step process below

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Step 01

Block Carving

The designs are envisioned and handed over to the block maker to carve the patterns and designs to be transferred later on to the fabric. Like most crafts in India, the skill of block carving is passed down from father to son. Carvers sit at small tables with their traditional toolkits and begin carving intricate patterns into the wood
Step 02

Block making

Each block is made with a wooden handle and several small holes to release air and excess dye. It is soaked in oil for 10-15 days before use to soften the grains of the timber.
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Step 03

Dabu mud paste

Dabu is a natural dye resistant mud paste made out of earth, naturally pounded wheat chaff and tree gum. This is used to block out the desired pattern.
Step 04

Printing

The surface used for the printing is a saree length table padded with many layers of cloth. The dabu paste is added to a wooden box on a little table with wheels which is pulled around as the printer works. The printer gently pats the block into the dabu paste and gives the handle a firm pound in the centre of the block as he places it onto the fabric. He or she will repeat this from left to right, aligning the block perfectly by eye from years of experience till the envisioned pattern is completed.
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Step 05

Dusting and drying

A fine sawdust is scattered over the wet paste once it has been printed to prevent the design from smudging and seals the printed portion form the subsequent dying process. After this has been completed its taken out to dry in sun for the dabu paste and sawdust to fuse together creating a hard dye resistant barrier
Step 06

Dyeing

A deep vat is filled with an extract from the indigo plant (fermented leaf material), water and limepowder. The fabric is immersed into the indigo dye. The darker the intended colour, the more times the fabric is immersed into the vat.
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Step 07

Drying in desert sun

Once the desired colour is achieved, the fabric is stretched out in the sun to dry. Walking around villages you can often stumble across large blue fields of indigo sheets drying the sun.
Step 08

Washed and Ready

Once all printing and dying processes are completed it is washed again to remove the dabu paste revealing the envisioned pattern in the original white. Each piece is unique depending on weather conditions, consistency of the dabu paste to the minerals in the water. We find beauty in this, each piece telling a story of its maker and environment.

Artisanal goods which celebrate life through their stories, colour, texture, and craftsmanship

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