An early sample of block printed fabric from India was unearthed in Fostat in egypt. Many similar fragments were found in South east asia and other early civilizations. It was found that there was a flourishing trade of brightly printed fabrics from India. The British East India Company set foot first on the Coromandal coast and were fascinated by inexpensive, intricately hand printed brightly coloured fabrics. The popularity and subsequent demand of brightly coloured Kalamkari, better known as ‘Chintz’ in europe, actually resulted in decline in the demand for machine printed fabrics, produced locally.
The traditional method of printing textiles was by using hand carved wooden blocks. The designs were printed using vegetable dyes to obtain bright terracotta red, indigo blue, turmeric yellow and deep green. The colouring was a tedious process using vegetable dyes. as vegetable dyes do not have affinity for fabric, the cotton fabric is firstly impregnated with metallic salts called mordants. These mordants help in bonding of dyes to the fabrics. The Indian printer’s skills were admired the world over to create intricate patterns using indigenous knowledge of mixing and overlapping to achieve varied tones of colours.
Block Printed textiles of Rajasthan
Rajasthan is known for its colourful block printed fabrics. The arid dessert land devoid of colourful natural surroundings is compensated by the love and use of bright colours in apparel by both men and women and for their homes too.
Block printing is a style of printing which is labour intensive and versatile. The printer community has been using the same wooden carved out blocks for many generations and are still able to sustain the craft. Two villages known for two different styles of printing are Bagru and Sanganer near Jaipur. Both have similar motifs but the technique of production and the look is very different.