Did you know our luxury loungewear is block printed by hand onto 100% GOTS certified organic cotton? The slight irregularities that come from such handwork create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The final outcome of this intricate work is a charming everlasting beauty and every garment made from this fabric is totally unique.
Keep reading to learn more about the process and skill behind this incredible craft…
Once the print has been designed, it is drawn onto paper and then carved by hand onto Sheesham wooden blocks which are approximately 18-25 centimetres square. Block carving is in itself an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery. Each colour in the design has its own block which can take weeks to carve meticulously by hand.
The outline block or 'rekh', is the most intricate and usually stamped onto the fabric first; it is typically the outline for a floral or lattice type design. Next the fill block or 'datta' is stamped, and possibly the ground colour block or 'gud' depending on the colour scheme being used.
Information courtesy of Mehera Shaw
Press play on the video below for a behind the scenes clip of our beautiful Golden Tropic organic cotton fabric being printed by hand!
Once the blocks and base fabric are ready, the surface of each block is dipped into AZO free dye, and then stamped individually onto the fabric. The process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be positioned perfectly and stamped repeatedly many times across the fabric. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in such finite handwork — create the artistic effects symbolic of block prints.
When the printing process is complete, the fabric is left to dry outside on large wooden racks. It is then washed and treated with a silicone wash to revive a bit of softness lost during the printing process, and then dried again and steamed so it is flat and smooth ready for the next stage of production.
Image courtesy of Mehera Shaw
We are in awe of this printing method and the incredible artisans who have mastered it. We are very proud to support the preservation and continuation of this beautiful national heritage craft of India.
If you’re intrigued to know more, you can read more about block printing below…
What is the history of block printing?
The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colours, 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 passed down from generation to generation. The colours are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water, and the skill and knowledge of the printing masters. In more recent forms of block printing, such as those practiced in Sanganer, colours are mixed using AZO free pigment dyes (Mehera Shaw, 2020).
How does block printing have a positive social impact?
Block printing supports decentralised artisan textile production as it 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 also follows Gandhi’s philosophy of keeping more people employed within their traditional environment. While men have often 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 (Mehera Shaw, 2020).
Why is supporting artisan work important?
Our supplier Mehera Shaw are a proud member of Craftmark. Established in 2006, the Craftmark initiative helps denote genuine Indian handicrafts, develop sector-wide minimum standards and norms for labelling a product as a handicrafts product, and increases consumer awareness of distinct handicraft traditions.
“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 homogeneous products dominate our lifestyles, craft products stand apart in their distinctiveness and cultural reference.” (Craftmark)
To learn more, please visit http://www.craftmark.org/why-craftmark
Thank you for reading! You can browse our first collection of ethical, sustainable loungewear here.