Hand crafted, block printed fabrics from India are very popular in western culture. This article discussed the obstacles that India’s block printing craft faces. It also gives some insight into the artistry behind creating the fabrics. One issue that the craft faces, is that block printing is being replaced by more ‘efficient’ techniques such as screen-printing. It can take as many as 12 days to carve one wood block. It can take as little as a few hours to create a design and transfer it to a screen. What you lose with a screen print is the actual mark of the artist that comes through with a woodblock. There is also a different texture that you get with a woodblock that would be impossible to replicate with a screen print.
Another obstacle that Indian block printers are facing is India’s dwindling water supply. Water is needed to wash and dye fabrics, and much of India’s water from the rivers is contaminated. Wells are running low of water. One master printmaker in the article had to drill another well opposite from a dry well to be able to keep working. This multiple well drilling can lower the water table if not done properly, exasperating the issue.
There are also virtually no government programs to support block printing by hand. Most printers will be retired in the next 15-20 years and it would be helpful if the government could support an apprenticeship program to keep the craft alive.
I am interested in learning more about this craft. As a printmaking major, with a special interest in pattern making, I would love to be able to learn how to make block printed fabric. I have a goal to one day be able to travel to India, and be able to watch the craft of India’s block printing in action. Here is a link to the article: