The technique of decorating the textiles by hand with the wooden blocks is referred to as block printing. Gujarat is an intensive area for printing where, generations of printers and dyers of the Chitara family have used river Sabarmati for washing fabrics and its banks has provided an area for sun-bleaching and drying cloth. Printing is a process of applying colors to fabric in localized areas. On the other hand design is drawn and transferred to the prepared wooden blocks for every colors. The colors are applied in a sharply defined pattern and separate blocks are made for each distinct color of the design. Vasna is located in vadodra district of Gujarat, a well-known place for fabric printing. Chitara family belongs to the Vasna region in Ahmedabad which has been practicing the art of fabric printing from ancient times. Hand block printing of Vasnais a craft known since ages for bright colors, delicate lines printed against a white background. Traditional knowledge of craft skills is transferred from one generation to another and each place has its distinctive design elements, color schemes and motifs. This craft is highly dependent on water sources. Therefore the areas near water resource are much suited to prepare a beautiful hand block printed product. Hand Block printing is extremely fine due to the superbly carved wooden blocks of various patterns, where the patterns are inspired from the nature and people.
Tools and Raw Materials Tools and raw materials required for Block Printing are as below:
Wooden Blocks: Wooden Blocks are used to print the patterns on the cloth. Printing
Table: Printing table is used for printing.
Wooden Tray with a Bamboo Lattice Bed Cover: Wooden Tray with a Bamboo Lattice bed cover is used for spreading of the color evenly.
Printing Pad: Printing Pad is used to spread the colour evenly in the wooden tray. Pins: Pins are used to tighten the cloth on the table.
Brushes: Brushes are used to clean the surface for better printing. Scale: Scale is used for marking the areas to be printed.
Block Making are as below:
Chalk Powder: Chalk Powder is applied on the surface which is easier for marking.
Chisels: Chisels are used to carve the surface as per the design.
Wood Planer: Wood Planer is used to smoothen the surface of wood.
Butter Paper: Butter Paper is used to make the designs on to the wood.
The wood used for the block is seasoned, cut into required size and smoothen for the process, chalk-paste is applied on the upper surface and allowed to dry. Pattern usually based on geometric forms or comprising of motifs derived from leaves, flowers, fruits and figures of animals, gods and goddesses. Block has two parts, a base and the other part as the top, carved out from the same wood or by attaching low cost wood as a handle. Designs are first drawn or traced on the butter paper, these are then carved on to the wood, and the repeating patterns are traced by applying the carbon filling to imprint the designs on to the wood. The negative space is then carved out with chisels, leaving the finer and more delicate work until last so as to avoid any risk of injuring the cutting of the coarser parts. The pattern is then raised in deep by scooping out the negative areas with the aid of a manually operated hand drill, ensuring the pattern is thrown in high relief by removing the intermediate walls of the bored sections through careful chiseling. Each block has two or more cylindrical holes drilled into the block for air passage to allow and release of excess colour. Blocks are soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the grains. The finished block presents the design standing out. Rectangular, square, oval, semi-circular, circular are the common shapes of the blocks. The makers of these blocks specially make for the Chitara community as per the designs.
Block printing is labour intensive and comprised of several stages in preparing the fabric. As the cloth contains starch and dust, it is pre-treated by dipping in water for two to three days. The cloth is stretched and spread on the ground for drying depending on the weather conditions. On printing-table the dried cloth is spread and fixed with the help of pins. Marking is done with the help of scale and chalk the areas to be printed, spaces for cutting and stitching. Before printing on the fabric, the printing paste is spread evenly in the wooden tray and the design is stamp on the cloth. Blocks are pressed hard with the fist on the back of the handle to imprint the colour evenly from left to right side; number of colours used in the design defines the number of blocks to be used. Usually borders are printed with the large mango butta and variations of the butti designs. Printed cloth is dried in shade, sunlight and washed in the river to fix the colours in case of pigment dyes. After drying, the printed cloth is wrapped in plastic or newspapers to avoid the colour spreading.
Block printing is the oldest beautification technique used in fabric. Patterns with open ended, bold designs with colour combinations of intensely detailed works are done on the surface of the cloth. Bedspreads of size 96 inch x 106 inch are used for block printing.
- Pillow covers usually of 20 inch x 26 inch size.
- Curtains vary from 54inch to 90 inches.
- Wall hangings as per the choice.
- Table cloths of varying sizes.
- Churidar dress materials.
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