Block or to Screen that is the question. But one can
also block and screen. The age-old art of block printing has been
very effectively combined with screen-printing and sometimes even
with rubberized embossing for that added pizzazz.
definition, a print is an image that has been produced by technical
means, which enables it to be multiplied. The art of hand block
printing to produce attractive fabrics of rich colors and patterns is
age old. The Gujarat region has been one of the great textile
exporting regions of the country. The patterns were usually applied
by block printing.
most important centers for traditional block printing are Bagru,
Barmer, Sanganer and Jaipur in Rajasthan and Anjar Deesa, Ahmedabad,
Jetpur, Rajkot and Porbunder and Bhavnagar in Gujarat.
there were three types of hand printing ajarakh
worn predominantly by the Muslims was geometrical in
pattern and was block printed on both sides of the material. The
name is probably a derivative of azrak
an Arabic word for blue. Certainly, indigo-blue was the principal
colour for these cloths. The ajarakh cloth was and in certain
cases still is used as marriage wears by Muslim men. The
Hindus from western Rajasthan and the Thar district of Sindh wear a
similarly patterned cloth. It is called malir
and the main colour here is red. The block printed and
screen-printed designs produced in Ahmedabad comprise a variety of
floral sprays and simulated bandhani
(tie-and-dye) on a red background and the floral prints have a strong
near Jaipur is the hub of the orthodox method of block printing.
These printed fabrics have in the past mainly been used by the local
women. Pattern rich in colors like indigo blue, alizarine red, iron
black and turmeric yellow were produced on coarse cotton cloth by
this indigenous process of printing.
hand-printers known as chhipas
came to this village from other parts of Rajasthan almost three
hundred years ago to settle here and make their home in Bagru.
to legend, the chief of Bagru brought two families of Chhipas from
Isarda, a village near Jaipur. More printers families
followed. The reason for the migration could have been the royal
patronage their craft received. But a more important one could have
been the abundant supply of water from the river Sanjari. Word
spread of its copious flow and its excellent properties suitable for
dyeing, printing and the washing process.
the ages this craft has been imitated at various other centers but
the Bagru prints have retained their special appeal. The reason is
still awarded to the inherent quality of the waters of Sanjari!
printing is essentially in two colors, red and black. Dyeing is done
to impart a colour to the ground fabric and at the same time to bring
out different coloring effects in the motifs after printing.
Formerly natural dyes made from pomegranate rind, indigo, turmeric,
madder were used as technological advancements were made, synthetic
colors replaced these.
tools of the trade of these untutored chhipas are very interesting.
Over the years the highly scientific method has required only slight
improvisation. The printing communities of both Rajasthan and
Gujarat have adhered to their age-old technique, which has been
handed down from generation to generation.
prathiya, a rectangular
table, situated about a foot above the ground, allows for printing in
a sitting position. Usually 32 layers of coarse cotton cloth are
spread over the entire surface forming a resilient, soft padding,
which is further covered with two layers of coarse, thick handloom
cloth. The top layers give a felting effect and serve to absorb any
surplus colour form the block that might seep through or drop out.
For those who prefer to work standing, a table of a higher height,
usually till the waist of the workers, is used instead. The
coverings remain the same.
a part of the table is placed the trough containing the printing
paste. A wooden trolley is placed nearby and can be moved to
different positions to suit the printer while working.
dispute, the most crucial part of block printing is the block itself.
This is made by the block-carver who uses teak wood to make the
block. The wooden hand-printing blocks are of different shapes
square, rectangle, oval, round and semi-circular or crescent. On the
bottom face the motif are engraved with steel chisels of different
widths and cutting surface by the carver who expertly executes the
designs free hand.
with every other craft, modernization has seeped into this age-old
form as well. There has been renewed interest in block printing and
a kind of revivalism, which brings in contemporary styling.
of the pioneers of current styles where the blocks are made in the
same timeless manner but with the motifs that are novel is Anuradha
Mahendra. She markets her ensembles under the Anu M
label for western styles and describes them as thats me;
Jhalak for the ethnic look and Anushka for
her saris. She acknowledges her designs with an Im new
blood, and adds, I started using blocks way back in 1985
as they were a cheaper form of printing. I combined it with screen
printing and got the kind of result I wanted.
since her first showing, Anuradha has earned a reputation for giving
the unusual, the unique, and the avant-garde. Her premier collection
was inspired by Henri Matisse, the French painter/sculptor. Then
came the art wear and she borrowed sketches of famous Indian artists.
All these were a combination of block and screen-printing. To her
goes the credit of introducing the age-old religious and mythological
symbols and figures in bold, eye-catching imprint.
Im planning my new collection, I design my print and decide on
whether its going to be all block or screen or a combination of
both. It is like creating a piece of art. The experimentation is
very spontaneous and impulsive. Not contrived. It could be modern
leaves or fish or animals. The colors and designs depend upon my
mood. I am there, with the printers, trying out various combinations
myself, she divulges.
year Anu M presented the Surreal Range. Faces, hands,
eyes and the choice of material, kurtas
in knitwear, went on to prove they were the right texture for this
art form. Their fall and drape adding to the surrealism. At the
other end of the spectrum was the face of a Maharaja and Indian
ornaments karas (thick
bangles); anklet et al.
is no hard and fast rule to what Anuradha may print on her fabric
next. Anything that interests me, she avers.
designer Scheraz Kheshvala works in-house at Eternia, one
of Bombays leading departmental stores.
confesses to a partiality towards western wear but as the trend is
decidedly ethnic, she follows the rule yet combines it with a western
look. Scheraz has a preference for bold, abstract designs in a
contemporary look. For eveningwear she selects gold, bronze, copper
and silver as her colors on the fabric and embellishes them further
with embroidery. Beads, gold thread, sequins etc. help to
highlight the khari effect of
the motif. For day-wear, I tone it down with sober, pigment colors,
as they are more informal, she reveals.
describes some of her popular works One with matkas
(pots) while another was designed with the sun motif. Personally,
this designer finds the Devanagiri script, which everyone seems to be
hooked on to, doesnt move for her. My clients prefer
abstracts. The bolder the better. And they print very distinctly on
mulmul (muslin) and tussar silk. I do incorporate screen-printing
with my blocks but find the former more rigid. With blocks you are
totally flexible. You can place them whichever way you like and it
tends to give the ensemble a completely different look, she
at Eternia is Manisha Bagadia who has the distinction of
winning the Original design Awards for her Taj
Collection while studying at S.V.T., Juhu, Bombay. This
textile designer says the motifs; colors and fabrics are governed by
the seasons. Winter is the wedding season, thus her work is
decorative and has more glitter in the form of gold, bronze, copper
and silver and embroidery. She combines the use of brush strokes
with her blocks and where required uses screen-printing as well.
for Manisha comes from varied sources. It could be a geometrical
design from a carpet; from old manuscripts or even a Rajasthani
landscape. A hot selling item during the marriage season
are her salwar-kameezes with the mehandi print. This
shows the entire palm with an intricate henna design,
symbolic of the occasion.
studied textiles, she plays around with the basic fabric extensively
as well. Thus, it is an interesting weave, like self-woven checks
that could make al the difference to a simple block print.
innovation of hers is using a rubberized solution. It is the
one commonly used for printing on T-shirts and gives an embossed
effect. Its still something of a novelty in context to its use on
the salwar-kameez, she explains.
placement of Manishas design depends to a large extent on the
cut of the cloth. It could be the all over Devanagiri script with
larger motifs printed over, or a simple border running down the seams
of the kurta. But the net result is effective. And that is
what ultimately count as far as the client is concerned, she