Fine prints, pure fabrics, beautiful colors, and immense hard work, I guess this completely describes the textile culture of Rajasthan. Rajasthan, the land of royal forts, palaces, and rich cultural heritage, is famous for its hand block prints. The colorful and intricate designs of Rajasthani block prints have captured the imagination of people from all over the world. The art of block printing has been practiced in Rajasthan for centuries, and it continues to thrive today, providing employment to countless artisans and sustaining a rich tradition of art and craft. It is an outstanding state of India with its different shades of culture, art and history folded together. The particular art we are talking about is hand block printing. This art has been flourishing in this state since the 12th century. Since the kings of that era gave this art a royal patronage this art has been happily passed on to generations of artisans. For now tons of this printed fabric is exported every year from Rajasthan across the world.
The beginning of this rich art is basically marked by the Chippa community of Bagru village who later with time, shifted to Sanganer. Owing to this, block printing is now segregated into two categories, the Bagru print, and the Sanganeri print. In the Bagru style block printing, the traditional plant-based dyes are developed and used whereas in the Sanganeri style, the colors are mixed with AZO-free pigment dyes.
An old Technique of Printing – Hand Block Printing
A traditional method of textile printing known as hand block printing involves carving detailed designs onto wooden blocks, which are then used to transfer the images onto fabric. The great level of expertise needed to produce each item makes this printing technique renowned for its exclusivity, artistic value, and artistic value.
Designs with natural themes, such as flowers, leaves, and trees, were used in hand block printing. However, the designs changed as the art form did. Today, a wide range of designs inspired by cityscapes, other cultures, and geometrical and abstract figures are used in hand block printing.
The Entire Process of Block Printing Goes as Follows:
First of all, a print is drawn on paper and then it is meticulously carved across the Sheesham or timber wooden block of 18-25 centimeters. Similarly, for every design and every color, these blocks are prepared. Then these blocks are kept in oil for 10-15 days to soften. The blocks are named differently as per their uses. For example, the block which used to print the outline on fabric is known as ‘rekh’ block. The fill block is known as ‘Datta' and the ground color block is called as ‘gud’. The block carving is entirely done by hand and indeed requires years of practice to carve a design perfectly on a block. These block prints can well go on Bedsheets, curtains, and many other Indian ethnic wear.
Preparing colors for block printing involves mixing pigments with a liquid binder to create a soft, even base for the color. The colors are then kept separately on trays to prevent mixing. This step is crucial in achieving the desired design and color consistency in the final printed product. Proper preparation of colors ensures that the ink spreads evenly on the carved blocks and produces high-quality prints
Before the printing starts, the fabric is washed to make it starch-free. Now the color is evened out on the tray, and each block is dipped carefully and pressed hard on the fabric to make a clear impression. First, the outlines of the prints are done then the other blocks are used to fill the color. The process indeed takes a lot of time as the variety of blocks (depending on design) is printed repeatedly to read a piece of fabric. Once the fabric is printed, it is dried in the sun and then rolled in the newspaper so that the print doesn't stick to each other. It is steamed and again dried in the sun after a wash so that the master gets assured of his fabric and print. Lastly, the fabric is ironed, packed, and sent to market.
Undoubtedly, it is the slowest of all methods of textile printing but then it is the exclusive and extremely artistic one. Traditionally, only designs like flowers, leaves, or trees were carved on blocks but now many Western designs inspired by cityscapes, and other cultures have come up. The trends of geometrical and abstract figures are also seen in hand block printing now. Hand-block printed fabrics are used to create a variety of products, including shirts, sarees, bed sheets, design dresses, Salwar –suits, Anarkali suits, and many other women’s wear. These products not only look elegant but are also unique, making them stand out from the crowd. The colors used in hand block printing are often bright and vivid, adding to the beauty of the final product.