A traditional ancient craft
Block printing is thought to have its origins in China over 4,000 years ago, before disseminating throughout Asia and the world. The earliest record of block printing, though, isn't on fabric but on a book known as the Diamond Sutra, which was printed 300 years before the Gutenberg Bible.
Block printing techniques remain largely unchanged since the time of the Mughals—at least where printing continues to happen by hand. Most block-printed textiles come about in one of three ways: direct, resist, or discharge printing. All print runs begin with a wooden block, which is hand-carved by artisans who typically learn the trade from their families. The work requires a delicate but deft hand. Carvers create a block for each element of the pattern, which means that within one pattern there are blocks for every border, leaf grouping, or flower style.
Art is what these textiles should be considered. When we think of block print, a few things come to mind: the exquisite design, color, composition, and the hand and heart of a craftsperson.” For Debbie Katz, it’s much the same. “ Indians know how much beauty we live around,” she says, “and I want the world to know it too.”