You are on page 1of 7

Tanmay Agrawal

VERNACULAR
ARCHITECTURE
Block Printing
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

Contents
History of Block Printing and Its Evolution ............................................................................................. 2
Emergence in Sanganer Village And its Location .................................................................................... 2
Materials Used and Brief Process ........................................................................................................... 3
Process Details ........................................................................................................................................ 3
Cloth Preparation ................................................................................................................................ 4
Block Carving ....................................................................................................................................... 4
Color Mixing-Preparing the Dyes ....................................................................................................... 4
Printing Process................................................................................................................................... 5
Color Fixing.......................................................................................................................................... 5
Social and Economic Impact ................................................................................................................... 6
Indo-Western Designs ............................................................................................................................. 6
Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................... 6

List of Figures

Figure 1 Sanganer Location ..................................................................................................................... 2


Figure 2 Materials Used .......................................................................................................................... 3
Figure 3 Cloth Preparation ...................................................................................................................... 4
Figure 4 Block Making ............................................................................................................................. 4
Figure 5 Dye Preparation ........................................................................................................................ 4
Figure 5 Alignment by Printer ................................................................................................................. 5
Figure 6 Color Fixing................................................................................................................................ 5
Figure 8 Indo Western Printing ............................................................................................................... 6

1|Page
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

History of Block Printing and Its Evolution

Records show that as far back as the 12th century, several centres in the south, on the
western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton. On
the south eastern 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. Tents were
made from printed fabrics and soon they became necessary part of royal processions. The
seasons largely influenced the integration of the highly creative processes of weaving,
spinning, dyeing and printing.
The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colours, has been
practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years. Block printing was introduced to the Jaipur
region of Rajasthan by the Chhipa community. This community was originally located in Bagru
Village, an area now famous for its vegetable dye and mud resist (dabu) block prints.
The art of block printing has been passed down for generations within families and
communities and has branched out in recent decades to other regions such as Sanganer, just
South of Jaipur. In traditional Bagru style block printing, the ‘recipes’ for the traditional plant-
based dyes are developed within each family and kept alive from generation to
generation. The colours are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water and skill and
knowledge of the printing masters. In more recent forms of block printing, such as those
practiced in Sanganer, colours are mixed using AZO free pigment dyes.

Emergence in Sanganer Village And its Location


From sophisticated printing and dyeing techniques for the royal attire to floral depictions
across the local and temple textiles; Sanganer block printing dates back to the social
upheavals of mid-
17th century that
may have forced
Gujarati printers to
flee to this city in the
Dhundhar region of
Rajputana, now
known as Rajasthan.
Oral tradition
suggests that the
Chhipa families of
Jaipur began to shift
their work to
locations where
Figure 1 Sanganer Location
space and running
water were freely available, yet still within easy reaches of the capital city Jaipur. The

2|Page
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

Kachchwaha Rajput prince, Sangaji, founded Sanganer in the early 16th century and the little
dwelling was thriving by the 17th century partially due to its strategic location on major trade
routes. The riverbanks of Sanganer presented the ideal location with the added benefit of
specialist dyers and cloth bleachers residing in the town. These artisans formed a large,
supportive community with block printing at the core of their culture.

Materials Used and Brief Process


A critical component of block printing is
block carving and it is an art form in
itself. Two kinds of blocks-wood and
metal are made in unique ways and
have unique purposes.
The craftsman printed the black area of
the design using the Syahi (ink) panting
paste prepared using scrap iron,
horseshoes and Gur (jaggery) in an
earthenware vessel.
Figure 2 Materials Used

Process Details

In Block printing there


are 4 major processes
that is block carving
wherein the block is
prepared, preparation of dyes, Printing by the skilled worker, Colour fixing by sun drying.

3|Page
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

Cloth Preparation
First, the fabric to be
printed is washed, free of
starch and soft bleached. If
dyeing is required, it is
done before printing. In
some of the printing
techniques dyeing is done
after printing as well. The
fabric is again washed to
remove excess dye and
dried thoroughly. The
fabric is stretched over the
printing table and fastened
with small pins. This is an
Figure 3 Cloth Preparation important stage as there
should be a uniform tension in the fabric with no ripples.

Block Carving
A print starts with the design, drawn on paper and carved into
the Sheesham wood block. Designs are meticulously carved by
hand into the blocks which are approximately 18-25 cm across.
The physical block is the design for a single repeat which is then
stamped in rows across the fabric. Each colour in the design is
carved into a separate block. The outline block or 'rekh', is the
most intricate and usually stamped first; it is typically the
outline for a floral or lattice type design. Next comes the fill
block or 'datta' and possibly the ground color block or 'gud'
depending on the colour scheme used. Block carving is in itself
an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery and is
done entirely by hand.
Figure 4 Block Making

Color Mixing-Preparing the Dyes


Once the blocks are carved, the master printer
prepares the colours which will be used in
printing. The colours are then poured into wooden
trays and the blocks stamped in the color each time,
then stamped onto the fabric to form the repeat
pattern.
The colour to be used is kept in a tray on a wheeled
wooden trolley with racks which the printer drags
along as he works. On the lower shelves printing
Figure 5 Dye Preparation
blocks are kept ready. Under the colour tray is kept
4|Page
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

another tray containing a thick viscous liquid made from colour binder and glue. This gives
the colour tray a soft base which helps to spread colour evenly on the wooden block

Printing Process

Each color pattern is stamped individually onto


the fabric; the process takes skill and time, as the
pattern must be stamped repeatedly across the
fabric, color by color. The slight human
irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create
the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The
final outcome of this intricate labour is a timeless
beauty, and every garment made from this fabric
is unique

The printing master must


carefully align each block as
he prints, using the ‘guide’
carved on the left edge of
the block as his
marker. Each printer has a
slightly different style
which is considered his
‘signature’ look. The
printing master must then
follow the same pattern of
aligning the blocks with
each color layered on to
the design. The subtle gaps
Figure 6 Alignment by Printer and overlaps are a beautiful
reminder of the hand work and give block printing it’s iconic look. All prints exemplify this
aesthetic and have a subtle pattern of light/dark across the design

Color Fixing
The fabric is sun-dried, which is part of the colour-
fixing process. It is rolled in wads of newspapers to
prevent the dye from adhering to other layers and
steamed in boiler constructed for the purpose.
After steaming, the material is washed thoroughly
in large quantity of water and dried in the sun,
after which it is finished by ironing out single
layers, which fix the colour permanently Figure 7 Color Fixing

5|Page
Vernacular Architecture Block Printing

Social and Economic Impact


Block printing provides a source of income to many village families and is an environmentally positive
approach to textile production in rural India. It is also a method of decentralized production, following
Gandhi’s philosophy of keeping more people employed within their traditional environment. While
often men have been the printing masters, in small-scale, traditional production, women also become
skilled printers. Traditional printing is often done in family units which provides more income for the
whole family and allows women to work within the day-to-day routine of family life.

Indo-Western Designs
In recent decades, designers from the West
have worked closely with local artisans to
create Indo-Western styles which are inspired
by other cultures, pop-art, nature and city
scapes. This collaboration has been beneficial
for everyone as new designs emerge, but also it
helps to tell the story of block printing and keep
the market alive.

Figure 8 Indo Western Printing

Conclusion
With over 23 million craftspeople, the crafts sector is the second largest employer in India.
Many communities in India depend on their craft skills as a source of income. The craft sector
keeps rural communities alive, sustains families, and allows children to gain education.
Supporting the craft sector breathes life into a heritage that is over 4,000 years old. It
maintains the transfer of valuable traditional knowledge from elders to youths and master
craftspeople to students. Buying hand-made products delivers livelihood to millions of skilled
craftspeople that proudly create unique, high-quality products by hand. Above all, in an
evolving global village where homogenous products dominate our lifestyles, craft products
stand apart in their distinctiveness and cultural reference. Thus, purchase of craft products
not only allows consumers to buy quality products but also maintain a connection with their
culture.

6|Page