Block Printing – Tracing its origin
The art or technique of block printing has come a long way since its inception. It is one of those few techniques that has been able to preserve itself to its truest form. Even today, the way hand block printing is practiced is almost similar to how it has been carried out as far back as 12th century. During this period, several centers in the south, on the western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton.
How Sanganer become a major center of printed textiles.
18th century marked the development of Sanganer as a major center for Hand Block Printing units. When Maharaja Jai Singh moved the capital of Amer in the Aravali foothills to Jaipur on the plains below, Sanganer was greatly benefited because of its open space, freely available running water, and supportive community of rangrez and dhobias.
Abundance of soft water and clay suitable for the process of sun-blocking fabrics helped Sanganer become the hub of printing units.
Today, many of the chippa families living in Sanganer are the descendants of those who moved to this place during migration in the 18th century.
Advent of Screen Printing
Though Block Printing yielded high artistic results, it simply couldn’t meet the increasing demands in International markets for fabrics made in India. This led to the introduction of a much cheaper, faster, and consistent method of printing – Screen Printing.
In screen printing, blocks are replaced by modern screens and vegetable dyes are replaced with chemical ones. Today, hundreds of screen printing units are running in Sanganer. Though, machine printing has its many advantages over block printing, it has its drawbacks as well – It generated higher quantity of chemical waste leading to pollution and contamination of river water and ground water.
But that’s just not it. Coming of screen printing and its quick and wide adoption by many has severely affected the lives of craftsmen, the quality of artifacts, and the whole market of printed fabrics.
What future holds for block printing
With the increasing awareness in consumers from all around the world towards Eco-friendly and naturally-prepared products, hand-block printed artifacts are more likely to gain popularity and affection in the near future.
Imperfection in design is starting to be seen as a contribution in aesthetics, this tends to give block printed artifacts a preference over the exact copies produced by screen printing.