Block printing is an age -old art. the tradition of making hand-printed textiles, widely practised in Rajasthan and Gujarat is characterized by the use of imprints of geometric as well as stylised floral and animal forms. Both areas have therefore craft clusters that specialise in making blocks for block printing. These follow a specific grammar which consists of the outline or lead block, known as rekh, the datta or the foreground filler block and the gadh, the background or blotch block. The speciality of the blocks from Jaipur is the depth and intricacy of the carving, which allows for a cleaner surface and clearer printing. Also peculiar to the Jaipuri blocks is the number of air passages, or pavansar, drilled through the block to ensure circulation of air in the block during the printing thus preventing the fabric from lifting when the block is raised. Due to its innate strength, blocks made of sheesham may last through 200 metres of printing and are therefore generally used for the outline or rekh blocks. Due to high cost of teak wood it is gradually being replaced by cheaper woods such as roheda and bhujan.
This slowly extincting art of block printing is labour intensive and painstaking process which requires skill, time and teamwork. The process if block printing on textile takes about 20-25 days of carving the pattern on wood to printing on textiles. The carves blocks of patterns are dipped in oil for 10-15 days to soften the wood blocks so that when the block is dipped in colour, it is able to absorb the required colour to further print the pattern on textile. Colour are mixed in separate containers and are prepared on a trolley tray, which the block printer drags along. The cloth is stretched tightly and pinned on the printing table to prepare the textile for printing.as the process starts with the printing of outline first; the inside colours are filled one by one by other artisans. The time process required on each design depends on the number of colours used to complete the pattern.
The finished printed textile is then hung in sunlight for drying and curing of the fabric.
It is an understated art which requires special emphasis to protect the interests of craftsmen and to protect the legacy of Indian fabric.