Block printing: an ancestral printing technique brought up to date

The new collection of relaxation pillows by Fuseaux de lavande has been realized with cottons printed according to the block printing technique. The opportunity to tell you more about this ancestral and entirely handmade “savoir-faire”.

What is the block printing?

The starting point of this printing technique is a pattern drawn on paper which takes its source in nature: flowers, leaves, trees are often represented. Once the motif is created and the distribution of colors decided, it is entrusted to a sculptor who will engrave it with meticulousness in a block of exotic wood, generally rosewood. The piece of wood is chosen from the heart of the tree and must not have any knots. It takes between 4 to 6 days for the engraver to carve a motif. A treatment of the wood in an oil bath is then necessary before the block is ready for use. For polychrome designs, 4 to 20 stamps may be necessary depending on the complexity of the design and the richness of the color range.

On the fabric, the patterns can be printed continuously or placed at specific locations. The printing is done by hand pressure on the block. To ensure that the final result is as uniform as possible, the wooden blocks are usually no more than 25 cm long. Once printed, the fabrics are air-dried.

The impression left by the block in the fabric results in slight irregularities in the printing of the patterns and colors. These small imperfections give a unique aspect to each piece and make the charm of these fabrics!

Block printing, a technique born in India

It is in India – and more precisely in Rajasthan, in the north-east of the country – that the block printing technique was born. Its creation is dated in the 14th century, although it is thought that its origin could go back to 2000 years before Jesus Christ. In the sixteenth century, it is seen with the “Indiennes”, printed fabrics brought to Europe from India and produced locally. In the 19th century, when India was a British colony, this technique was gradually abandoned in favor of a more industrial production. It is only after the independence of the country in 1947 that we see a return of local crafts and printing on wood block.

Each region of India has its own colors and designs, which allows to know the origin of the pieces.

From block printing to Indiennes

Indiennes are painted or printed fabrics made in Europe between the 17th and 19th centuries. These fabrics owe their names to the fact that they were initially imported from the Indian counters. It is from the eighteenth century that a European production develops, taking the codes of the Indian tradition of cotton canvas printed with wood block. Among the most famous factories in France, we can mention Marseille, Nantes, Jouy-en-Josas and of course Nîmes!