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CRAFTS OF INDIA / BAGRU / TRIVIA -2
BAGRU

- It may be surprising to learn that wooden blocks can have so many characters. But an art that has evolved over centuries it does have many minutiae.

- “Pavansaar” is an innovation introduced to facilitate printing. These are basically holes created in the blocks so that air “pavan” can pass through and the block does not get blocked. These blocks also had holes drilled along and across the grains of wood to stop colour from getting trapped in the fine carved area because of capillary action and help in the maintaining the block as well the design that’s printed. This means that due to the presence of holes colour does not spread on the fabric while printing. The holes also reduce the weight of the block.

- For Abhrak printing, the blocks have a cylindrical hollow made entirely of copper. Rogan paste is filled inside these hollow cylinders. The design is made in the hollow metal cylindrical block and then transferred on to the fabric with the help of a wooden mallet. The wooden mallet is the same shape as the hollow cylinder.

- Gold, silver or copper dust is than spread onto the wet paste, extra dust is brushed off after a while. Outside India this technique was used to copy gold embroidered or woven Damask fabrics. A velvet effect was similarly used by printing some kind of gum and then spreading fine woollen powder on the same.13

- Blocks have also been used for embroidery. Kashmiri shawls, for instance, which have extremely fine paisley designs have corresponding fine blocks which are used to print embroidery designs. In the past it was very common in various crafts like baandhani or embroidery to use blocks instead of tracing the design by a tracing paper. The blocks were meticulously printed using Multaani mitti on the surface of the fabric. The mud gave a fugitive yellow colour. The next step was to start embroidery on the shawl based on these prints.

- The same method of tracing pattern by blocks was used in Baandhani techniques in Gujarat and Rajasthan. In fact it is still very commonly used for the traditional designs, as blocks have a much longer life than tracing papers.

- In Gujarat, instead of Multani mitti, Geru (a red coloured earth) was used for printing the design on fabric. Later on it was replaced by fugitive synthetic indigo powder, Neel, which is commonly used in India on white clothing, to maintain the whiteness of the fabric.

- A special feature of Gujarat and Rajasthan (especially Sanganer and Bagru) was the use of Namada- Felt, for the absorption of colours in a uniform way from the printing container. The thick and thin part of carved area sometimes makes it difficult for the printer to take the colours uniformly from the printing tray, so the felt acts like blotting paper to absorb the colour and transfer it onto the fabric.

- To get very fine patterns often metal was used in the outline area or the outline block. It is also common to find nails of a wide variety of sizes used to create fine dots. These are usually created to fill the empty space in between floral designs.

- Another place where one finds innovation is the handle created to hold the block. About hundred years back it was quite common to find blocks and the handle of the block carved out of one single piece of wood. These blocks took a large space to store.

- Blocks found in Pipaad, Jodhpur, Samdaari and Balotra had a special feature, that the handles were removed, when the blocks were not in use. These blocks were carved out of a special wood called Royada and were also very light weight.

Market

Even though the traditional block printing craft has flourished over the past three decades, with increasing demand from both export and domestic markets, block printing faces an increasing threat from the mushrooming of screen-printing units that are selling their products – often, designs copied from block prints – as genuine block printed products.