Hand-block printing ~ beautiful work from Bagru, Rajasthan (Part I)
Making of Blocks
The wood used for blocks varies with region. Usually seasoned Saagwaan wood is used to make the blocks. For single color block printing one type of blocks are made. However for more colourful and intricate patterns, multiple blocks are made where every layer of the final pattern has a separate block. Master Artisans finalise the designs by drawing on a tracing paper and then takes the impression on the wood. Various tools are then used to carve the wood in the desired design.
Hand-block printing process usually starts with soaking the fabric in a liquid made of a powder called Halda. It is a natural powder used to give a yellowish tint to fabric. Sometimes the halda is also put on the fabric using broad blocks. This process is done as per the requirement and how dark or light yellow tint artisans want the fabric to have.
Artisan working on Halda block printing
Once the fabric has dried up, the process of block printing starts. The natural colors used in hand-block printing are Red & Black and Brown (Dabu). Other colors are usually combination of these or dyes. To print, the block is dipped in the color and stamped firmly by hand onto the fabric. The process is repeated to complete one fabric.
Colors being fermented
Red color ready to use
For more intricate designs multiple blocks are used. Each color has its own block so the number of colours you see on the fabric shows the number of blocks used. Each successive iteration requires even more precision.
The years of practice made the process look so effortless when artisans were doing it however when I tried doing it myself I realized that if the force used and the angle of block is not correct, you may not get the desired output.
After the block work is done the fabric is put to dry before it goes for the washing process, and then again it is put under the Sun for drying up.