A Short History of block printing
Although the oldest wood block printed textiles were found in China dating before 220 AD, it was in Rajasthan where meticulous and intricately expressed designs developed further.
Rajasthan has been home to the art of block printing for at least 450 years. The artisans or ‘chippas’ can trace back their teachings through the generations, from father to son, mother to daughter, and so on. Each generation works almost exactly as the one before, producing hundreds of meters of block printed textiles by hand in small villages.
These block printing villages have not always flourished as they do now. Having to withstand high demand for floral printed cottons in 1700’s England, at the same time as decking out the Maharajah and their courts, proved exhausting for these artisans. Furthermore, with the introduction of mass production in the West, meant Indian fabric exports were soon unsought after.
By the 1970’s, the poverty of these communities became desperate when demand quickly turned to cheaper, roughly printed synthetics.
However, this was not the death of an ancient craft. Around the same time as synthetics emerged, small artisan-dedicated businesses cropped up with a focus on preserving ancient craft techniques. It was with this movement that the artisans continued to value their work and practiced their craft as they always had.