Human beings have undergone mechanisation since pre-history, lightening our working loads, taking advantage of the forces of nature and accomplishment achievements beyond our physical capabilities. Nowadays, many years after advent of modernism, technology comes to the fore in almost all aspects of our lives, and although this may seem discordant with handicrafts, the progress of both shares a path.

Indeed, the textile industry has been trying to reduce the amount of manual work involved from the outset. However, there is still a place for handicraft tasks capable of creating unique and unmistakeable pieces. Block printing is a fine example of the above. Would you like to come with us to find out more?

What is block printing? 

Understood as a method of textile patterning, block printing is a technique that uses carved wooden blocks to print decorative patterns onto fabrics. This procedure originated in China, and it is known to have been used prior to the year 220AD. 

Patterning using blocks (also named woodcut printing is a 100% manual technique that entails a slow and laborious working process. Thus, in India, this type of task attains a very high level of specialisation, often involving four categories of craftsmen different: carvers, printers (Chips), dyers (Rangers) and washers (Dhobis)

Does this age-old technique of textile patterning have a future? 

Any expert in the textile sector knows that block printing’s value is soaring. Indeed, consumers value authenticity very highly that can solely be obtained from fabrics decorated in a handcrafted manner. Undoubtedly, they are perfect to make the most demanding fashion lovers stand out.

Unlike what happens with digital textile patterning, the woodcut technique offers eminently artistic results. This is the point in which industrialised process cannot provide the same results. 

Very soon, we shall see how consumption based on slow fashion replaces that of fast fashion. Certainly, there are endless ecological and humanitarian reasons to leapfrog the model used until now by textile developers. 

Textile patterning using blocks is sole means of earning a living for many families who have been performing these manual tasks for generations. Their work requires strident efforts and dedication, with it being our responsibility as purchasers to their products to prevent them from being plunged into obscurity.

Ultimately, handmade processes and aesthetics are back to stay. Mass produced works, made by machines and digitally created have lost ground to imperfect, tactile and subjective qualities offered by handmade goods, and we have discovered the means to intervene in the most alienating aspects of technology.

And it is block printing that offers a valuable alternative to the inherent ordinariness of the modern textile industry.