No other textile print has quite the look or appeal of traditionally handmade woodblock prints. From start to finish, this age-old craft is truly done by hand, which results in prints that are stunningly unique. The process has remained relatively unchanged since antiquity—fragments of block printed cloth uncovered from the ancient Indus Valley civilization of Mohenjo-daro date back as far as 2600 BCE. Throughout centuries, woodblock printing as an art form has passed between generations, and no other textile printing method so closely shows a connection to human hands and creativity.
The first step in making a block print is to prepare the wood block itself. Traditionally, a piece of teak wood is soaked in oil for 10 to 15 days to soften the grain, making it less likely to splinter. Then, the artist draws or transfers a design onto the block and begins to cut away any sections of the wood he or she does not want to receive ink in the final printing process. The result is a kind of relief carving, typically intricate, floral and strikingly beautiful in design. Simply the blocks themselves are so breathtaking that they are pieces of art in their own right, worthy of a place of prominence in your home—like our Block Print Hooks.
After the blocks have been prepared, the artisan prepares their workspace, which is usually a large wooden or stone tabletop covered with a thick, woolen printer's blanket. The softness and elasticity of the blanket allows the wood block to settle into the fabric, giving a better chance for a full, complete impression at every go. Once the fabric has been placed on the tabletop, it is meticulously measured to ensure consistent placement of each woodblock impression. Then, the carved design is thoroughly coated with all-natural dyes, traditionally vegetable- and mineral-based, by placing the wood block twice, in two different directions, into the dye, which is held in a special tray called a color sieve. The final step of the printing is to carefully place the block, then strongly strike it with a wooden mallet to leave a rich, bright print. Each impression of the wood block pattern on the fabric is performed twice—the artisans line up the wood block precisely in the same spot for the second print.
The results of this incredibly long, complex and meticulous process are simply unrivaled. The presence of the artist is undeniable, as every burst of color reflects hours of handmade dedication, work and love. We can't get enough of block prints—we love their connection to the craftsman and to cultural history—and we know you'll find something to delight in in our vast, stunning collection of block prints over at VivaTerra.