Woodblock printing is a traditional form of printing that has been used in India for thousands of years. While the origins of this technique are debated, some scholars believe that India is the birthplace of the first printed textiles. This method involves the use of various types of wooden blocks and the skill of skilled artisans.
Types of Printing Blocks
There are several types of wooden blocks used in traditional printing. These include wooden hand blocks, copper blocks, cast metal blocks, and nail blocks. Each type has its own unique characteristics and is used based on the design being printed. Copper and brass blocks are often used for carving intricate and dotted designs.
Classification of Wooden Blocks
Wooden blocks are further classified as Rekh, Gadh, and Datta based on their usage. Rekh blocks, also known as outline blocks, are carved to match the shape of the design. They serve as a guide for the placement of subsequent blocks and are intricately carved. Gadh blocks, or color blocks, are used to create background colors in the fabric. They are carved in intaglio style and have the opposite function of Rekh blocks. Datta blocks, or filler blocks, are used to add bold colors to the design.
Tools for BlockMaking
Different tools are used at various stages of the block-making process, all of which are operated by hand. These include cutting tools, smoothing tools, drawing tools, and carving tools.
The Process of Block Making
- Purchasing Wood: The first step in block making is purchasing the wood. Teak is commonly used as it is less prone to flaking and cracking.
- Preparing the Wood: The wood is then cut into smaller pieces and seasoned. It is smoothed using a plane and washed with riverstone, sand, and water to give it a glossy finish.
- Designing: Designs are sketched symmetrically on paper and then pasted on the woodblock. The logs are then left to dry in the sun.
- Carving: Carving is the most time-consuming process and can take up to three weeks to complete. Designs are carved using different chisels.
- Finishing: In the final step, handles are affixed to the blocks for easy handling. Air holes are drilled to prevent smudging and spreading of color while stamping. The wood is seasoned and soaked in til oil for 10-15 days.
Each woodblock print is unique and holds a special place in our history and culture. As custodians of India's rich heritage, it is our responsibility to protect and promote these traditional techniques.