The main tools of the printer are wooden blocks which are available in different shapes and size as per the design and requirement. The block makers mainly make two types of block
1. Wooden Block
2. Metal Block
1. Wooden Block:
These blocks are usually made on teak or seesham wood. Artisans make sure that the wood is seasoned and then carve the motifs on it. The design are first printed on paper and stuck on the block of wood. Artisan, then start carving the wood with steel chisels, of different widths and cutting surface. The motifs are carved on the base while the top has a handle. These handles are either carved out from the same wood or by a low cost wood attached to the surface with the help of nails. Each block has two or more cylindrical holes drilled into the block for free air passage and also to allow release of excess color. Blocks made are of rectangular, square, oval, semi-circular, circular etc. shape. Once the block is made it is soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the grains. The life of these block are approximately 600-800 meter of printing. The outline blocks are called as rekh and the filler blocks are called as datta.
2. Metal Block:
For making intricate patterns and getting high level of clarity in prints metal blocks are used. These blocks are made by engraving thin sheets of evenly cut metal strips into the wooden blocks. The metal strips are beaten to make them thin and then strips are cut of even length. The design is drawn on the wooden block and the metal strips are pressed onto the design by gentle hammering. Filling of the designs is done from center to outside. Once made the blocks are checked to see the strips are of the same height from the wooden base. Metal blocks are costly, time consuming but long lasting.
These are specially made tables measuring approximately 3 feet high, 3 feet wide and 9 feet long. The surfaces of the tables are covered with several layers of cloth, jute and canvas which help in better printing. These tables allow 3-4 printers standing and working simultaneously. Traditionally these tables were of low height approximately 1 feet high, 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. The printer used to sit on ground and print.
Colors used for printing are kept in a wooded tray called as saaj. Once the color is poured into the tray wire mesh is placed inside. This mesh is covered with a piece of felt. Felt soaks the color and finally a fine cotton/malmal cloth is placed on the felt. This preparation helps in proper application of color on the block.
These are wooden trolleys' accommodated with two shelves and wheels in the base for the easy movement. On the upper shelve the color tray is kept while in the lower rack required blocks. The height of the trolley is 3 feet suitable for working on the printing table. These are locally called as patiya.
For marking the areas to be printed scales are used.
For marking chalks are used. These chalks have sharp edges which gives fine line.
Metal or nylon brushes are used to clean the wooden and metal blocks after use. This helps in maintaining the life of the block.
Tambadi (Copper vessels):
Traditionally copper vessels are used for dyeing and washing of cloths.
Mogari (wooden roller):
This a cylindrical wooden roller on which the cloth is kept and beaten.
Kotan (Wooden mallet):
This is used to beat the cloth over mogari, in order to remove the starch.
• Raw Materials:
The process of block printing is widespread due to its intricate process, motifs and vibrant colors. The main raw material is the color used in the printing. Traditionally the artisans used natural colors but today it has been replaced by chemical and artificial colors.
The main raw materials are Colors/ Dyes.
Different types of dyes are used for silk and cotton.
• Vegetable/ Natural dyes
• Discharge Dyes
• Pigment dyes
• Reactive dyes
• Rapid fast Colors
Vegetable/ Natural dyes:
Since ages artisans are using vegetable dyes for printing and dying. As they are extracted from the nature, vegetables, fruits etc., they are beneficial for the environment along with having traditional importance. There are few major colors produced naturally which are known internationally too.
- Indigo Blue:
Extracted from the indigo plant found throughout India.
This is obtained by mixing alizarin with alum. The color ranges from pink to deep red.
This is acidic solution of iron which is obtained by processing rusted nails, horse shoes, iron
scrap etc. with jiggery and salt. The mixture is buried under the ground and allowed to rot
for about 10-15 days. It is then taken out and the color is prepared.
The skin of pomegranate is processed by boiling.
Apart from this artisans also use bark of mango tree, vinegar, slaked lime etc.
These dyes are used to print on dark background. The printing colors have chemical which react with the dark ground fabric and bleaches out the dark color from that particular place and prints the desired color. In this process a range of white and other light colors can be printed on a dark background.
These colors are readily available in the market and are easy to use. The mixed colors can be stored in plastic buckets after use. Pigment colors, brought from the market are further mixed with kerosene and a binder. The mixing has to be done carefully as the thickness of the material can give raised effects on the cloth while printing. These colors follow the direct printing technique. Colors applied are visible and do not change after washing. A number of colors can be obtained by mixing two or more pigment colors.
These are the chemical dyes which when mixed with second chemical produces a third color. Artisans therefore dye the cloth, to be printed, in one chemical and then print it with another chemical. These two chemicals react with each other and hence produce a different color. There are only few chemical dyes available in the market.
Rapid fast Colors:
These colors are difficult to store and has to be used the same day. In rapid fast color process the color in the design and the ground color both are printed in one go. Generally white or light background is used. There are only few colors available in this process.
Traditionally the printing was done on white or pale background of cotton cloth. Today the craft is practiced on any material ranging from cotton, silk, organza, jute, kotadoriya, chiffon, paper etc.
Kambli (Woolen Cloth):
A piece of woolen cloth is laid in the color tray. This helps in proper application of color on the block.