Meet Our Partner Pt. 2: History of Block Printing
Let me begin by writing that I LOVE block printing and when I saw my first JOYN bag, it only fueled my curiosity. I was first introduced to block printing when I studied wood type at graduate school in a typography class. I did a whole project on wood block type and found myself scouring antique stores and ESTY to find wood type letters to preserve. I think I am just as captivated by the blocks themselves as the designs they produce. There is something about the visible chisels that surround each design on the block that I admire and how each time they are used there are small imperfections in the ink that let you know an actual person, not a machine, made the print.
Woodblock printing is the process of printing patterns on textiles, usually of linen, cotton or silk, by means of incised wooden blocks. Block printing by hand is a slow process, however, capable of yielding highly artistic results, some of which are unobtainable by any other method.
India has been renowned for its printed and dyed cotton cloth since the 12th century and the creative processes flourished as the fabric received royal patronage. Though the earliest records mention the printing centers in the south, the craft seems to have been prevalent all over India.
Surat in Gujarat, India became a prominent center for trade of painted and printed textiles. The major items produced were wall hangings, canopies and floor spreads in rich natural colors. Records show that as far back as the 12th century, several centers in the south, on the western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton. Tents were created from printed fabrics and became a necessary part of royal processions. Trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha's time and printed and woven cloths traveled to Indonesia, Malaya and the Far East.
Today, India is a major hub and regions such as Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat are the flourishing trade centers for hand block printing.
JOYN'S Process to Beautiful Block Printing