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  • Writer's pictureharriks

History, Popularity and Marketability



This week I focused more on research about the history and global popularity of block printing while preparing the artworks for carving. Here is a brief note of my research.


 Block printing traditions stretch as far back as the 12th century, with many areas cultivating their styles, which are renowned throughout the world. It is known to be one of the oldest methods of transferring designs and patterns onto fabric. 

The idea of block printing originated in China 2000 years ago during the time of Tang  Dynasty from there, it travelled to India and later to Europe.

In the 17th century, royals, especially the Mughals and Nizams were found of block printed textiles. They adorned their clothing and palace interiors with block printed textiles. Most of the popular block print patterns are from the Mughal period.

The British were in India from the early 17th century and were receptive to native culture and arts before the Raj family came into being in the mid 19th century. However, they did export block printed fabrics as luxury goods to Europe.

I spotted some of the block printed fabrics on display at Victoria and Albert museum preserved for its quality and Art value.


In the 17th century, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, widely known for his love of the arts gave motifs in block printing visibility to a broader audience inside and outside India.

The demand for export in the 15th century by the Portuguese made it very popular in the Europe. The Indian colours were altered to more neutral shades to suit the European market's taste. However, the print design, technique and materials remained unchanged. Only small quantities were shipped to Europe, making them much more precious. India reached its peak as a textile exporter during the 18th and 19th centuries. However, the market was undermined when England developed machinery and synthetic dyes that could effectively “fake” the block printed look. Fabrics, gowns, furnishings and tents started to be made from printed materials, and soon they became a necessary part of royal processions.

Today Block-printed textiles are among India’s most successful exports. The enduring popularity of block printed cloth has sustained a centuries-old craft that survives and even thrives in the digital age. Indian block printers today are adept at calibrating production to suit the requirements of a highly diverse clientele.A significant chunk of the block print exports is for home decor.  The high demand for sustainable and organic clothing is also adding to the widespread popularity of block prints on the global landscape.

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