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India - Arts and Crafts - Block Printing

Block Printing


¤ Tracing of Prints on Cloth

Block PrintingEspecially fascinating for foreigners is the printing of cloth with carved wooden blocks. Jaipur, Ajmer, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Jodhpur and Bikaner in Rajasthan are the strongholds of this craft. The floral motifs favored by the printers of Bagru and Sanganer (Around Jaipur) are Persian in origin, though Sanganeri designs are more sophisticated. They usually have a white or pale background decorated with colorful twigs or sprays. The not-so-fine Bagru prints were initially meant for peasants and had a light brown background.


¤ Method of Printing

Rajasthan has a long and distinguished tradition of printing with finely carved wooden blocks. What you might have already seen in Delhi’s Rajasthali or Fabindia is merely the tip of the iceberg. Head for Bagru and Sanganer, not far from Jaipur, to see for yourself how cloth is printed by hand.

This method, though labourious, is actually quite simple and merely calls for precision. The cloth is laid out flat on a table or bench and a freshly dipped block is hand pressed on to the fabric to form a continuous, interlocking pattern. The block carries dye if the original colour of the cloth has to be preserved.

If the cloth has to be dyed, the block is used to apply an impermeable resist – a material such as clay, resin or wax – to demarcate the pattern that is not to be coloured. Later, when the cloth is dyed, the pattern emerges in reverse. Traditonally, block-printing relied on the use of natural dyes and pigments, but now synthetic dyes have gained currency as they are cheaper. If you belong to the green brigade, stick to eco-friendly naturally dyed cloth.


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