The hand craft of Indian block print is tied to a prized, yet sadly diminishing, tradition that we embrace with pride. Dating back centuries, it is an elegant, time-consuming process, and one that is passed from one generation to the next. Artisans are trained masters and far from plentiful, and with modernization and general societal change, the block printing capabilities of the past are far diminished.
shenouk is part of a movement intent on keeping this craft alive, preserving the beauty inherent in these designs and helping to provide a sustainable life for those artisans to whom we owe so much.
The perfect imperfections inherent in this intricate method are simple reminders that people created these gems, people across the world with their own stories, which only serves to make them more special.
Tools: Wood blocks are chiselled into the desired pattern by hand. A separate block is used for each colour, requiring exacting precision in their preparation to ensure they layer perfectly in finished form. Separate blocks may also be required depending on the layout of design regardless of colour — thicker motifs and thinner details often cannot print simultaneously. For the most intricate designs, brass blocks are used.
Fabric: Cloth is treated, washed and dried in a multi-step process; exact duration depends on the fabric selected and the specific dye method chosen. When ready for use, it is pinned tautly on a cushioned printing table. Limitations on lengths of block print for running fabric are directly linked to the length of these tables.
Colour: Dyes are painstakingly mixed by hand, tested against master samples. When approved, they are poured into trays where layers of fabric are inserted to create a surface to dip against–which type of fabric and how much fabric depends on the block detail. Cloth layering is [almost] always adjusted when switching designs to accommodate the individual requirements of each block.
Print: The printer lowers the block into the dye tray, allowing just enough colour to cover its surface – and printing begins. The block is placed on the fabric with one hand and a quick firm pound from the other hand stamps the colour to the material. Guide marks are built into each block to anchor each subsequent print to aid these artisans in their work. Repeated and careful applications create the full design. Mistakes can skew the entire piece so extreme precision is indeed required.