Hand Block Printing

hand block printing at Mehera Shaw

Ghanshyam Ji doing a printing demonstration at Mehera Shaw. 

 

History - Process - Style - Social Impact 

HISTORY

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.  This community was originally located in Bagru Village, an area now famous for its vegetable dye and mud resist (dabu) block prints.  The art of block printing has been passed down for generations within families and communities and has branched out in recent decades to other regions such as Sanganer, just South of Jaipur.  In traditional Bagru style block printing, the ‘recipes’ for the traditional plant-based dyes are developed within each family and kept alive from generation to generation.  The colors are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water and skill and knowledge of the printing masters.  In more recent forms of block printing, such as those practiced in Sanganer, colors are mixed using AZO free pigment dyes.

 outline block

 

PROCESS

Block Carving

A print starts with the design, drawn on paper and carved into the Sheesham wood block.  Designs are meticulously carved by hand into the blocks which are approximately 18-25 cm across.  The physical block is the design for a single repeat which is then stamped in rows across the fabric.  Each color in the design is carved into a separate block.  The outline block or 'rekh', is the most intricate and usually stamped first; it is typically the outline for a floral or lattice type design.  Next comes the fill block or 'datta' and possibly the ground color block or 'gud' depending on the color scheme used. Block carving is in itself an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery and is done entirely by hand.  

Block carving in Sanganer, Jaipur, India



Color Mixing-Preparing the Dyes

Once the blocks are carved, 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 shown are AZO free, eco-friendly synthetic colors which are used in Sanganer printing.

mixing dye colors

 dye mixing for hand block printing in Sanganer

For each new design, we do a color check and test out new color combinations.  We use Pantone TPG (TPX or TCX) reference codes for color matching.  Above, our master printer, Ghanshyam Ji is working with our team to develop a series of new colorways with our new collection.

 

Printing Process

Each color pattern is stamped individually onto the fabric; the process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be stamped repeatedly across the fabric, color by color. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints.  The final outcome of this intricate labor is a timeless beauty, and every garment made from this fabric is unique.

block printing showing each layer of color

 

The printing master must carefully align each block as he prints, using the ‘guide’ carved on the left edge of the block as his marker.  Each printer has a slightly different style which is considered his ‘signature’ look.  The printing master must then follow the same pattern of aligning the blocks with each color layered on to the design.  The subtle gaps and overlaps are a beautiful reminder of the hand work and give block printing it’s iconic look.  All prints exemplify this aesthetic and have a subtle pattern of light/dark across the design.

block printing process showing layers of color

The block printing villages are know for their rhythmic ‘tock-tock’ sound of the block printer hitting the wood block to ‘stamp’ the pattern.  It is an enchanting sound which echoes through the village and is a reminder of the significance of artisan work.

 

STYLE

The original Bagru style printing traditionally used natural vegetable dyes and mud resist techniques to print on cottons and silks. 

traditional Bagru block print motifs

Traditional Bagru designs reflect nature in floral, leaf and geometric motifs.  Later techniques incorporated Persian motifs and developed block printing into a highly intricate style.

 

Hand block printing now also extends to Jaipur and Sanganer with the use of AZO-free, synthetic dyes (such as pigment and indigo sol) and different styles of printing.

mediterranean inspired block motifs


origami inspired kids block prints

origami inspired kids hand block prints

We’ve experimented with some new design styles, mixing elements of traditional buti and jaal patterns with inspiration from Mediterranean tile motifs (above) and from Japanese origami motifs (below).

 

In recent decades, designers from the West have worked closely with local artisans to create Indo-Western styles which are inspired by other cultures, pop-art, nature and city-scapes.  This collaboration has been beneficial for everyone as new designs emerge, but also it helps to tell the story of block printing and keep the market alive. 

modern sari design by Mehera Shaw

 Modern, Japanese Zen inspired sari design.

 

Block Printing at Mehera Shaw

We work both in Bagru and Sanganer.  In Sanganer, we work at our own facility using AZO free, eco-friendly, pigment dyes with our own print designs. The advantage of ‘modern’ synthetic dyes is that they are colorfast, easier to make and machine washable. In Bagru, we work closely with a local printer using vegetable dye and dabu mud resist techniques in traditional prints such as indigo prints.

organic cotton drying on the bamboo 'addan' 

 

 

 BAGRU PRINTING

 Block printing for Mehera Shaw in Bagru Village

Dabu Printing and Vegetable Dyes

The “recipes” for Bagru style vegetable dye prints have been preserved for many generations by the artisans’ families. Many of the dyes require months of curing for the desired color to develop. Weather, water quality, and changes in the crops, all affect the vegetable dye.

 

 

 

SOCIAL IMPACT

Decentralized Artisan Textile Production

Block printing is typically done in open-air facilities in villages, or in people’s homes.  It provides a source of income to many village families and is an environmentally positive approach to textile production in rural India.  It is also a method of decentralized production, following Gandhi’s philosophy of keeping more people employed within their traditional environment. While often men have been the printing masters, in small-scale, traditional production, women also become skilled printers.  Traditional printing is often done in family units which provides more income for the whole family and allows women to work within the the day-to-day routine of family life. 

 

Artisan Standard

Block prints, are, by nature, hand-done.  The slight color variation within a print run and across different print runs if printed at different times or in different seasons, is a natural part of the process.  It is an attribute appreciated by those who value the uniqueness of artisan textiles.

  

 

Mehera Shaw is a proud member of Craftmark.  

Established in 2006, the Craftmark initiative helps denote genuine Indian handicrafts, develop sector-wide minimum standards and norms for labeling a product as a handicrafts product, and increase consumer awareness of distinct handicraft traditions. Craftmark is an initiative of AIACA.   To learn more, visit http://www.craftmark.org/why-craftmark  and see what they say below.

Why support Craftmark?

With over 23 million craftspeople, the crafts sector is the second largest employer in India. Many communities in India depend on their craft skills as a source of income. The craft sector keeps rural communities alive, sustains families, and allows children to gain education. Supporting the craft sector breathes life into a heritage that is over 4,000 years old. It maintains the transfer of valuable traditional knowledge from elders to youths and master craftspeople to students. Buying hand-made products delivers livelihood to millions of skilled craftspeople that proudly create unique, high-quality products by hand. Above all, in an evolving global village where homogenous products dominate our lifestyles, craft products stand apart in their distinctiveness and cultural reference. Thus, purchase of craft products not only allows consumers to buy quality products but also maintain a connection with their culture.

 

 

Wholesale Block Printed Fabric

Click here for retail fabric purchase.

If interested, please click here for the European Market (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Scandanavia, Spain, France).  For all other locations, please contact Shari Keller at shari(at)meherashaw.com.  Please send your registered company name, address, website and a brief description of what you're looking for.

hand block printed fabric swatches at Mehera Shaw

 

Our previous print collections can be viewed at the link below:

http://issuu.com/meherashaw

      

 

 

 

 

 

Fit/Sizing/Care
FIT

Our styles are meant to give room to breath and move.  We use fine tailoring coupled with a relaxed, comfortable fit.

We use a fit guide for each of our styles to provide more information about the fit that was intended.

Slim Fit: a close fit to the body. Regular Fit: a comfortable, relaxed fit with room around the body. Generous Fit: a very loose fit (such as in our oversized blouses) with lots of room around the body for ease of movement.

 

SIZING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

XS/ 36

S/ 38

M/40

L/ 42

XL/44

 

 

chest

35.5 inches/ 90 cm

37.5 inches/95 cm

39.5 inches/ 100 cm

41.5 inches/ 105 cm

44.5 inches. 113 cm

4cm extra from body

waist

26 inches/ 66 cm

28 inches/ 71 cm

30 inches/ 76 cm

32 inches/ 81 cm

35 inches/ 89 cm

fitted

 

low waist

28 inches/71 cm

30 inches/76 cm

32 inches/ 81 cm

34 inches/ 86 cm

37 inches/ 94 cm

fitted

 

hip

37 inches/ 94 cm

39 inches/ 99 cm

41 inches/ 104 cm

43 inches/ 109 cm

46 inches/ 1

4cm extra from body

 

 

WASHCARE

All garments have been washed several times during the printing/dyeing and manufacturing process.  

CARE for 100% cotton

We recommend cold water machine wash (up to 30 degrees celsius) with a bio detergent and either tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade for all of our 100% cotton garments/homewares (except for quilts).  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.  

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Cold water wash and low heat drying or line drying in the shade will increase the life of the garment, prolong the vibrancy of the colors and reduce energy use. Shrinkage on all cottons is minimal, approximately 3%.

Garments/homewares are dyed or printed using AZO free, low-impact, pigment or reactive dyes unless otherwise noted.  These dyes are color-fast, but care should still be taken to wash with like colors to retain the vibrancy of the colors.

CARE for 100% cotton quilts

For quilts with cotton fill, we recommend spot or light surface cleaning only with a damp cloth and mild detergent.  Eco-friendly dry cleaning is also recommended. 

CARE for herbal/vegetable dye items

Vegetable dyes are not colorfast and are specifically marked in the product description.  We strongly recommend that all vegetable dye products be washed once before use in a cold water wash with minimal detergent.  Wash separately. Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  Iron on reverse side.  Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Please keep in mind that indigo dye does continually fade over time.  This is the nature of true indigo dye and is not a defect, but rather a sign of the 'living' nature of the dye.

CARE for silk and cotton/silk

For our silk and cotton silk garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Dry cleaning using an eco-friendly service is also recommended.

CARE for linen and cotton/linen

For our linen and cotton linen garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.