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Introduction on Hand Block Printing



06/03/2018  WEEKLY REFLECTION


Being from India, a country that promotes handicrafts and handmade products as its pride, it was unusual for me to be unappreciative of the crafts. It was probably because of having grown up seeing an abundance, as most of our traditional household items were handcrafted. My perception changed five years back when I visited a craft cluster in Mysore (South India) as part of a collaborative unit during my BA graduation. What I saw there was breathtakingly intricate and almost unbelievable. It was more about the art of creating or the process that attracted me more than the beauty of end product.

For my MA project, I wish to collaborate with the Block printing clusters in India to experiment and create various shapes and textures to enhance my textile. Textile printing is a unique form of expression that highlights Indian heritage and has abundant textiles printed with traditional motifs and patterns. Talking about hand block printing, it been a part of Indian textiles for  600 years or more. There are many clusters across India mainly north India practising different hand block printing techniques.

Undoubtedly the beauty of hand block prints come from the human element, the slow process which by itself is an art in this highly mechanised world. The unique aspect of the print is not its handmade quality, but the distressed look which can't be replicated by the machine. A small imperfection, perhaps a broken line will add to the enchantment and uniqueness.


Block Making Process: The design is first drawn on to wood and then carved out to create stamps.


Image 3

A special technique called 'dabu' otherwise known as mud resist block printing.

This week I tried to contact a few block printing clusters from Delhi and Jaipur, as they are popular in India for hand block printing. Most of them were not ready to take up the project; they were either already booked for fashion week in India or, they didn't co-operate to experiment. Block printing is traditionally used for repeats and motifs, and these artists are familiar with a particular style of patterns. They were hesitant to do other forms and textures as they will have problems adapting to a different style.

However, last week I received a call from Mr.Rajat, one of the printers I had worked with earlier.  He agreed to take my project and also sent me few patterns he worked on before mainly showing various achievable textures and patterns.

He advised me to start preparing my blocks and to send them for making at least a week before my trip to India because it will take 10 to 15 days for carving and cutting blocks depending on the pattern and size. 


Image 4

A display of patterns at Okhla block printing cluster available for printing.

References

Image 1: Keezhathil Surendran Pillai. H, 2017

Image 2: Keezhathil Surendran Pillai. H, 2017

Image 3: Keezhathil Surendran Pillai. H, 2017

Image 4: Keezhathil Surendran Pillai. H, 2017



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