Craft From Rajasthan, India
The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colors, has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years. Block printing was introduced to the Jaipur region of Rajasthan by the Chhipa community.
Block printers, carvers and dyers are all traditionally part of the Chhippa cast in India. Like most crafts in India the skill of block carving is passed down from generation to generation. Chhippas squat at small tables with their traditional tool kit of miniature chisels, hammers and drills and begin carving intricate patterns into the wood.
After each wood block is carved they are soaked in mustard oil for up to 2 weeks to ensure the wood doesn't crack when exposed to the dry conditions of the printing process. Tiny holes are also drilled through each block to ensure that the wood breathes, allowing the blocks to last for decades.
Then, the master printer prepares the colors which will be used in printing. The colors are then poured into wooden trays and the blocks stamped in the color each time, then stamped onto the fabric to form the repeat pattern. The colors are AZO free, eco-friendly synthetic colors which are used in Sanganer printing.
The surface used for printing is a saree length table (approx 6 meters) that is padded with many layers of burlap and cotton cloth. The printer aligns the first block to the bottom left corner of the fabric and with incredibly precise hand eye coordination, that has been developed over years of block printing, stamps the block on the fabric with a hard pound of the fist at the center of the block, ensuring even printing. This same process is repeated along the length and width of the fabric.
The final step in the process is to wash and steam the printed cloth to ensure color fasting.