CRAFTS OF INDIA / BLOCK PRINTING / PROCESS -1
- The main tools of the printer are wooden blocks in different shapes and sizes called bunta.
- The underside of the block has the design etched on it. Each block has a wooden handle and two to three cylindrical holes drilled into the block for free air passage and also to allow release of excess printing paste.
- The new blocks are soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the grains in the timber.
- Wooden trolleys with racks have castor wheels fastened to their legs to facilitate free movement. The printer drags it along as he works. On the upper most shelf trays of dye are placed. On the lower shelves printing blocks are kept ready.
- The fabric to be printed is washed free of starch and soft bleached if the natural grey of the fabric is not desired. If dyeing is required as in the case of saris, where borders, or the body is tied and dyed, it is done before printing.
- The fabric is stretched over the printing table and fastened with small pins (in the case of sarees the pallu is printed first then the border).
- The printing starts from left to right. The color is evened out in the tray with a wedge of wood and the block dipped into the outline color (usually black or a dark color). When the block is applied to the fabric, it is slammed hard with the fist on the back of the handle so that a good impression may register.
- A point on the block serves as a guide for the repeat impression, so that the whole effect is continuous and not disjoined.
- The outline printer is usually an expert because he is the one who leads the process. If it is a multiple color design the second printer dips his block in color again using the point or guide for a perfect registration to fill in the color. The third color if existent follows likewise.
- Skill is necessary for good printing since the colors need to dovetail into the design to make it a composite whole. A single color design can be executed faster, a double color takes more time and multiple color design would mean additional labor and more color consumption.
- Different dyes are used for silk and cotton. Rapid fast dyes, indigo sol and pigment dyes are cotton dyes. Printing with rapid dyes is a little more complicated as the dyes once mixed for printing have to be used the same day.
Standard colors are black, red, orange, brown and mustard. Color variation is a little difficult and while printing it is not possible to gauge the quality or depth of color, it is only after the fabric is processed with an acid wash that the final color is established.