The delicate yet detailed Block print from Jaipur, Rajasthan has been an integral part of India’s rich textile and hand-loom heritage. The simplicity and creativity of this technique is the reason for the popularity of this art. Trends changed, fashion evolved and technology took over craftsmanship but block prints held their place with panache.
Block printing originated and was pioneered in the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, from where it then traveled to the east. The chief community involved in the art of textile block printing is the Chhipa community who originated from Bagru, Rajasthan. This art form is a painstaking and labor-intensive process that has traveled through the generations of skilled workmen of this community. The printers use wooden, metal or linoleum blocks to dye and color fabrics.
The Sanganeri technique was developed somewhere around the 17th century when the craftsmen migrated to Rajasthan from Gujarat. The block printing at Bagru started 450 years back with the settlement of Chhipas. The Chhipas in this area tend to settle alongside the river since the clay from the river is essential for their Bagru prints. The traditional Sanganeri and Bagru prints, while eco-friendly, differ in the color schemes and design type. If the print is a motif or geometrical pattern on colors like black, beige or brown, it is Bagru whereas floral trellis patterns on bright white background is unmistakably Sanganeri. Also, the detailing is much more intricate in Sanganeri prints.
Skill, team work and time are quintessential to the block printing technique. First the artwork/design is drawn onto a translucent butter paper which acts like a guide for the block maker to carve from. Then the block is carved by hand out of wood. Each block could take 7-10 days to carve depending on the intricacy of design. A single design might need up to 30 such blocks and a single block printed fabric, might require the work of nearly 20 people working individually for 8-10 hours.
The design being made on butter paper
The whole wooden block on which the block printing design will be carved
The wood been hand carved to give it the desired design
The dyes used are natural colors and vegetable dyes. These dyes are mixed with an arabic gum before use. This dye does not show its true color while printing. The printed fabric is then processed in a mild acid bath which helps in fastening the color.
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