Friday, June 5, 2009

Wood Block Printing

My sister is deciding to start her textile unit and use her graphics skill to transfer into textile design and printing. Being very conscious entrepreneur, she has decided to use eco-friendly vegetable dyes for dying and printing fabric. That brought back my memories of wooden blocks. What I am referring to wooden print blocks which are carved of sustainable harvested brown hard Indian sheesham wood (also known as Indian Rosewood - a member of the Teak family). Sheesham is a hard wood with dark brown color. It is perfect to carve and make stamp either for direct transfer of inks or pastes or a resist such as clay or wax.

The use of wooden blocks to print or stamp designs on cloth, especially cotton, is still common in India. The designs vary from place to place, but the technique is the same. The designs are first drawn on paper, which is pasted onto a block of wood. The wood is cut with a crude engraving tool to the depth of one-third of an inch. Holes are cut to allow air that would be trapped within the cavities formed by cutting out the design to escape. This allows the dyes to spread evenly without air bubbles.

Wood Blocks

The blocks are very beautiful as just objects. They are used to print cotton fabric by artisans. They have handles at the back so they are easy to roll and press. I just have many ideas to use them. I love them to display as art objects. I can create artwork using photos of these blocks and manipulate them in Photoshop software. I can definitely line-up under the glass table. I have used them to print papers also.