We are Offering Hand Carved East Indian Wood Textile Print Blocks, Wooden Stamps and Stencils for Use in Impressing, Stamping or Printing Paper, Cards, Textiles, Cloth, Bedspreads, Pillow Covers, Quilts, Curtains, Wallpaper, Doing Temporary Henna Tattoos, Scrap Booking, and Impressing Clay, Tiles and Ceramics. These Traditional Stamps are Called Bunta in India and are as Beautiful as a Piece of Art as They are Functional.
we Offer Vintage & Antique as Well as Contemporary Wooden Stamp Blocks in Hundreds of Designs – Many Being One-of-a-kind. Designs Include: Floral Stamps of Plants, Leaves, Flowers; Bird Stamps Including Peacocks; Wooden Elephant Blocks as Well as other Animal Stamps, Village Life, & More!
what Can You Do with Our Wooden Print Blocks?
use Them to Imprint Fabric
use Them to Imprint Paper
use Them to Imprint On Walls
stamping Clay or Femo, Sculpey, Premo!
make Custom Tiles
use These Stamps to Apply Henna Tattoos.
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The manufacturing of sophisticated textiles in India is as ancient as its civilization. The discovery of dyed cotton fabric dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. The art of dying with the use of mordants was well known to Indian dyers some 5,000 years ago. This form of dying which reveals a mastery in the chemistry of dying was responsible for making India famous all over the world for its dyed and printed fabrics.
Block printing is practiced in regions of India where a cotton or silk fabric is printed with the help of wooden blocks with beautifully carved or incised designs. First the outline block is printed, after which the blocks for filling in the colors and designs are systematically applied.
Wood printing stamps and hand carved wooden print blocks have been used to print everything from newspapers, flyers, and match boxes to traditional clothing, bedspreads and fabrics. Nearly a lost art, this handcraft work will soon be lost because of modern technology such as automated web presses and silk screening that is replacing hand made, hand carved wood print blocks used in hand printing fabrics and textiles.
India has been renowned for its hand block printed and dyed textiles of cotton and silk cloth since the 12th century and these trades flourished in the following centuries as they received royal patronage. Though the earliest records mention the printing centers in the south, the craft seems to have been prevalent all over India and today has settled in the north of India, Nepal and Pakistan.
Surat in Gujarat became a prominent center for trade of painted and hand wood block printed textiles. The major items produced were clothing, bed clothing (bedspreads), wall hangings including wedding decorations, canopies and floor spreads in rich natural colors. As far back as the 12th century, several centers in the south and on the western and eastern coasts of India became renowned for their excellent printed cotton. On the southeastern coast the brush or kalam (pen) was used, and the resist applied by the same method. In the medieval age printing and dyeing of cottons was specially developed in Rajasthan. In Gujarat the use of wooden blocks for printing was more common.
Tents were created from printed fabrics and became a necessary part of royal processions. The seasons largely influenced the integration of the highly creative processes of weaving, spinning, dyeing and printing. Festivals also dictated this activity.
Trade in cotton cloth is said to have existed between India and Babylon from Buddha’s time. Printed and woven cloths traveled to Indonesia, Malaya and the Far East. By the 1700’s, beautifully loomed, woven and printed fabrics, scarves and shawls were being exported to Great Britain, France and the rest of Europe.
In the 17th century, Surat was established as a prominent center for export of painted and printed calicos, covering an extensive range in quality. Cheaper printed cloth came from Ahmedabad and other centers, and strangely enough Sanganer was not such a famous center for printing as it is today.
Major Centers of Hand Block Printing
Cotton is also printed in Ahmedabad, Sanganer, Bagru, Farukhabad and Pethapur, the main centers in Rajasthan and Gujarat where hand block printing continued, although giant automated web presses and silk screening is quickly replacing the traditional hand printing. The prints of these areas seem to be quite similar. The Bagru and Sanganeri prints cannot be easily distinguished but if one looks carefully each has its own typical characteristics. The Sanganer prints are always on a white background, whereas the Bagru prints are essentially in red and black. Farukhabad is famous for its artistry and intricacy of design. Pethapur near Ahmedabad is known for the finest block printing. Banaras block makers design their blocks to suit fine silk printing – sometimes each design has seven colors. Block designs get bigger and bolder and the delicacy is lost as one moves towards the south or towards Calcutta. Today, Andhra Pradesh is a large center for hand block printing. Hyderabad is the home of the very popular Lepakshi prints. It is quite amazing how the same motif can be interpreted in different forms. Ajarakh prints, popular even today originated in Gujarat involving a resist print, primarily intended for garments for men.
The Process of Hand Block Printing
Block printing has became popular because a rather simple process can create such sensational prints in many and varied rich vibrant colors. Originally natural dyes were used but today they have been replaced by chemical and artificial colors. The main colors used are red, the color of love, yellow the color of spring, blue as in Krishna, and saffron of the yogi. The main tools of the printer are wooden blocks in different shapes and sizes called bunta.
Wooden Print Blocks are made of seasoned wood, including teak wood and Indian Sheesham wood. These often finely carved stamps are carved by trained craftsmen. The underside of the block has the design etched on it. Each block has a wooden handle and two to three cylindrical holes drilled into the block for free air passage and also to allow release of excess printing paste/dye. The new blocks are soaked in oil for 10-15 days to soften the grains in the timber.
Wooden trolleys with racks have castor wheels fastened to their legs to facilitate free movement. The printer drags it along as he works. On the upper most shelf trays of dye are placed. On the lower shelves printing blocks are kept ready.
The fabric to be printed is washed free of starch and soft bleached if the natural grey of the fabric is not desired. If dyeing is required as in the case of saris, where borders, or the body is tied and dyed, it is done before printing. The fabric is stretched over the printing table and fastened with small pins (in the case of saris the pallu is printed first then the border).
The printing starts form left to right. The color is evened out in the tray with a wedge of wood and the block dipped into the outline color (usually black or a dark color). When the block is applied to the fabric, it is slammed hard with the fist on the back of the handle so that a good impression may register. A point on the block serves as a guide for the repeat impression, so that the whole effect is continuous and not disjoined. The outline printer is usually an expert because he is the one who leads the process.
If it is a multiple color design the second printer dips his block in color again using the point or guide for a perfect registration to fill in the color. The third color if existent follows likewise. Skill is necessary for good printing since the colors need to dovetail into the design to make it a composite whole. A single color design can be executed faster, a double color takes more time and multiple color design would mean additional labor and more color consumption. From single to over a dozen colors can be used, often with one piece of fabric having dozens of different print blocks needed.
Different dyes are used for silk and cotton. Rapid fast dyes, indigo sol and pigment dyes are cotton dyes. Printing with rapid dyes is a little more complicated as the dyes once mixed for printing have to be used the same day. Standard colors are black, red, orange, brown and mustard. Color variation is little difficult and while printing it is not possible to gauge the quality or depth of color.
It is only after the fabric is processed with an acid wash that the final color is established. Beautiful greens and pinks are possible with indigo sol colors but pigment colors are widely popular today because the process is simple, the mixed colors can be stored for a period of time, subtle nuances of colors are possible, and new shades evolve with the mixing of two or three colors. Also the colors are visible as one prints and do not change after processing. Colors can be tested before printing by merely applying it onto the fabric. The pigment color is made up of tiny particles, which do not dissolve entirely and hence are deposited on the cloth surface while rapid dyes and indigo sols penetrate the cloth.
Pigment colors are mixed with kerosene and a binder. The consistency should be just right, for if it is too thick it gives a raised effect on the material, which spoils the design. Small plastic buckets with lids are ideal for storing the mixed colors over a few days.
Cotton saris after pigment printing are dried out in the sun. This is part of the fixing process. They are rolled in wads of newspapers to prevent the dye form adhering to other layers and steamed in boilers constructed for the purpose. Silks are also steamed this way after printing. After steaming, the material is washed thoroughly in large quantities of water and dried in the sun, after which it is finished by ironing out single layers, which fix the color permanently.
Each print block is carved of wood or made of copper or other metals or a combination of the two. These print blocks are vintage used pieces. They often show wear including, but not limited to, minor damage to the printing surface, chips, cracks, holes (drilled into the blocks to allow air and excess ink to escape), missing handles, or other damage. They are not perfect pieces most of the time – otherwise they would not have been sold! A few are of exceptional quality with no damage – these are noted. Be aware that each print block is often carved to be only a part of the “whole” picture – thus designs may not be complete with a single stamp (i.e. one stamp will print the flower stalks and leaves – while another print block prints the flower petals and yet another print block the details of the stamens, etc.).
Should you purchase one of these print blocks and not be pleased with the piece you may return it with postage paid for a shop credit, less a 20% restocking fee. We have this policy in place for a number of reasons, including the prevention of abuse of our merchandise and services. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause; but we are strongly confident you are sure to love our print blocks.
The art of Block printing has attracted numerous people down the ages. Scraps of cloth found in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro are evidence of the existence of this art as far back as 3000 B.C. History records important printing centers in Machlipatnam and Malwa, Gujarat. However, in the present context, Jaipur has become an internationally acknowledged center for block printed fabrics & textiles.
Block printing process dates back to the early 17th century. Sir George Wall wrote in his monumental work Indian Art at Delhi in 1902, “the Sanganer town of Jaipur state must however be regarded as the very metropolis of the calico printing craft of India so far as conceptions and techniques are concerned”. So it was there that this charming art of printing started. As far as tradition goes, it is said that the great astronomer king Sawai Jai Singh was responsible for giving impetus to the art of printing. He invited artists and craftsmen from different parts of the country to settle here and under his benign patronage this art started to take roots so strong that today, almost two and a half centuries later we see a flourishing industry.
The main contributions of Sanganer printers are fast colors and meaningful, well-proportioned lyrical motifs designed for dupattas, odhanis, dress material, quilts and upholstery. The versatility of the motifs suited the occasion, place and patrons.
The king’s courts were resplendent with motifs based on flowers like Rose, Nargis, Iris and Chrysanthemum. Small booties also derived from nature, like the Dhatura, Lavang, Dhania etc. decorated the rich cotton ‘pharads’ of the village folk. Fine lines, soft curves and refinement is the characteristics of Sanganeri cotton prints. Gradually, with time, the art of block printing came to be synonymous with Sanganer and later Jaipur, so that if a person would ask for a Sanganeri print, the retailer would immediately identify it as a hand block print. The process of hand printing can only be summed up with one word – laborious.
Printing blocks carved from sheesham or teak may take from one to five men up to three days to complete an intricate design. The printer may use from one to thirty separate blocks to complete a design. The printer stamps the cloth approximately a thousand times to complete three meters in five colors. From raw cloth to the finished product, the garment passes through at least twenty pairs of hands. The human energy input into an average garment is eight hours. Sometimes one wonders, with so many different minds working together, from start to finish, how it is possible to achieve a perfect result. The only answer is a wonderful creative synergy between teams, aligning block to block, hour after hour in silent communication. In workshops all over Jaipur, the rhythm of the block can be felt like a heartbeat as blocks connect with the table with a firm thump. The atmosphere develops a feeling of quiet satisfaction, as the workers display their unique ability, very alike a musician doing his ‘Sandhana’. The strong current of creativity is what makes this labour, a craft.
The ultimate test of this craft is the preferences of the patrons. Enlightened customers have provided this craft with a strong economic backbone. Today, with the closure of mills, the craft has become a force to reckon with and holds high esteem in both foreign and domestic markets. This industry has finally proved its mettle, battling against competition from screen and mill prints, it has stood its ground. Surviving the test of time, hand block printing has emerged as a winner. Credit for its success goes to both the craft and the patron.
This method, though laborious, is actually quite simple and merely calls for precision. The cloth is laid out flat on a table or bench and a freshly dipped block is hand pressed on to the fabric to form a continuous, interlocking pattern. The block carries dye if the original color of the cloth has to be preserved.
If the cloth has to be dyed, the block is used to apply an impermeable resist – a material such as clay, resin or wax – to demarcate the pattern that is not to be coloured. Later, when the cloth is dyed, the pattern emerges in reverse. Traditonally, block-printing relied on the use of natural dyes and pigments, but now synthetic dyes have gained currency as they are cheaper. If you belong to the green brigade, stick to eco-friendly naturally dyed cloth
What are the blocks carved of?
Our new wooden print blocks are carved of sustainably harvested brown hard Indian sheesham wood (also known as Indian Rosewood – a member of the Teak family). Sheesham is a heavy and hard wood with a rich chestnut color and is very dense and works well as a stamp either for direct transfer of inks or pastes or a resist such as clay or wax.Some of the vintage blocks are carved of teak or other. ardwoods.
The inner core or “heartwood” of a sheesham tree is of a darker color, while the outer ring is a lighter, whitish color. Wood taken from these two parts is called ‘kaali taahli’ (dark sheesham) and ‘chiti taahli’ (white sheesham) respectively. The former is harder and considered superior. Kaali taahli in quantity for a dhol is also more rare– being from older, larger trees– and thus is more expensive. The sheesham wood blocks may also be two toned – of an intermediate grade, containing patches of both ‘colors,’ or of a moderately dark, reddish color is called ‘laal taahli.’
[Note that ‘kaali taahli’ does not refer to ‘black’ colored wood, and that the natural color of ‘kaali taahli,’ a reddish-brown, is often darkened by the application of oil to the dhol.]
Other functional uses of Sheesham wood:
Dalbergia sissoo (sheesham) is one of the most useful timber sources of India. The heartwood is very hard and close grained with a specific gravity of 0.62-0.82. It seasons well and does not warp or split; it is extremely durable and is one of the timbers least susceptible to dry-wood termites in India. Wood offers resistance to sawing and cutting but is excellent for turnery, takes a good polish and finishes to a smooth surface. It is used for high quality furniture, cabinets, decorative veneer, marine and aircraft grade plywood, ornamental turnery, carving, engraving, tool handles and sporting goods. Its root wood is used for tobacco pipes. In village industry Dalbergia sissoo (sheesham) is popular for doors and windows.
Young branches and foliage form an excellent fodder with dry matter content of 32.46%, crude protein 2.7-24.1%. The foliage has normally been used as an emergency feed when other fodder sources fail.
Apiculture: A useful source of honey but the flowers are only lightly attached to the flower branch and fall easily. The bees are therefore not able to take advantage of the large numbers of flowers. The honey produced is dark amber with a strong flavor.
Fuel: The species is fast growing, hence suitable for firewood. Sapwood and heartwood have calorific values of 4.9 and 5.2 kcal/g respectively.
Fibre: Sulphate pulp from wood is used in producing writing and printing paper.
A fast-growing species; growth rates of 10 feet in 1 year, 18 feet in 3 years, 40 feet in 5 years and 50 feet in 10 years have been recorded. Dalbergia sissoo (sheesham) plantations are established in block or strip plantations. Closer spacing is used for straight timber of good quality. When the canopy closes, at about 6 years, 30-40% of the stems are thinned to selectively remove suppressed, diseased and badly formed trees. Thinning is recommended every 10 years where the rotation is 30-60 years. There is evidence that the stumps begin to lose vigour after 2 or 3 rotations when managed as a coppice crop. It coppices vigorously up to about 20 years of age.
Animal fibres such as silk and wool accept most natural dyes with comparative ease, unlike cotton, which inherently rejects a permanent bonding. For cotton, an intermediary agent or catalyst called a mordant must be used. Different mordants unite with certain natural dyes to cause them to be bound to the cotton fibre. The mordant, a metallic oxide, combines with the dye to create an insoluble substance that coats the fibre. Different mordants can yield different yet predictable colours in the same dye bath. Varying concentrations of the mordants can affect colour density. The manipulation of the kinds of mordants, their purity, and their density, is one of the secrets of the dyer’s art.
The use of wooden blocks to print or stamp designs on cloth, especially cotton, is still common in India. The designs vary from place to place, but the technique is the same. The designs are first drawn on paper, which is pasted onto a block of wood. The wood is cut with a crude engraving tool to the depth of one-third of an inch. Holes are cut to allow air that would be trapped within the cavities formed by cutting out the design to escape. This allows the dyes to spread evenly without air bubbles. The wood must be firm and fine grained.
The fabric is laid on a low bench on a pad formed of several layers of heavy cloth. The printer squats in front of this with the dye in a pan or earthen vessel at his side. The vessel contains a frame that is covered with layers of cloth or blanket, forming a pad that becomes saturated with colour and on which the blocks are pressed before stamping.
We make sure that our products are made from 100% environmentally sound materials and that the workers who make our beautiful hand carved print blocks and textiles are paid fairly and work in good conditions. After speaking with individual artisans about their salaries, we were delighted to hear they received fair wages and some additional benefits.
The various skilled textile artisans who collectively produce our magnificent wooden print blocks are good-humored, happy people. Their workspace is full of natural light as well as good over-head light, allowing them to see the appropriate block-print designs with clarity.
Other artisans prepare eco-friendly natural dyes, made by extracting colors from various plants, vegetables, nuts, spices and minerals. Hibiscus, onion, indigo, safflower and turmeric are all examples of dye-yielding plants.
Meanwhile, women in nearby villages create extraordinary embroidery by hand-stitching two pieces of thick block-printed cotton together. The hand-stitching is done with a visible, light-colored thread and follows the block-print design creating a raised pattern
Dhamadka a village in Gujarat has many printers using predominantly madder root for red, rusty iron solution for black and indigo for blue. These fabrics are known as Ajrakh. The designs are geometric. Many states have block printing workshops using chemical dyes. However there are only small pockets of areas still using natural dyeing with age old recipes and local plant material.
The earthquake in 2001 was devastating to wide areas of Gujarat. Many artisans were killed or had their homes and workshops destroyed. Hopefully aid is helping many to rebuild their former way of life and continue creating unique textiles
In Rajastan handwoven cotton is printed with dye and then over printed with a mud compound used as a resist. When the mud dries the entire fabric is dyed in an Indigo bath. The areas covered with mud retain the red design while blue penetrates the remainder. The two designs on sale at this stall were called “young woman’s cloth” and “old woman’s cloth
Masuliputnam in Andra Pradesh is the main centre of block printing where the fabric is known as Kalamkari. The cloth used generally is mill made cotton first bleached with cow dung and placed in the sun. The next step is to soak the cloth in a mixture of Myrobalan and milk. The Myrobalan contains tannic acid and acts as a mordant helping the dye stuffs to bond with the fibre. The buffalo milk, having high fat content, helps prevent the dye from running. Next the black outline is printed using a solution made with rusty iron soaked in sugar water and bran for several weeks. When the solution comes in contact with the myrobalan it turns black. The next step is printing on another mordant, alum. This bonds the red dye, Madder Root, after boiling, to the areas that receive the alum. These steps continue until all colours have been printed or brushed on. It is necessary to have a good water supply for washing after printing. It takes weeks to complete all the steps. My admiration goes to these artisans producing beautiful textiles with such time consuming techniques.
The kalamkari, handpainted cloths of Sri Kalahasti, Andra Pradesh, works of art drawn entirely by hand, were origionally created predominantly for the temples as narrative murals.These murals tell the stories of the great Hindu epics in picture form. Earlier this century Christian missionaries commissioned artists to create murals telling the story of Christ. I have seen panels where all religions have been included as an ecumenical statement.
In addition to the epic murals, the Tree of Life theme is very popular and comes in many forms.Artists are also branching out and using the medium for their purpose. Mr. M.Kailasam drew a series called Fantastic Birds to commemmorate the Centenary of Salim Ali, the Father of Indian ornithology. His work depicting fanciful fish using only madder and indigo has a strong design element. Mr Gurawapa Chetty, another skilled Sri Kalahasti artist has travelled overseas demonstrating these techniques for the Indian Government when the All India Exhibition travelled around the world in the 1980’s.The government started a training school to preserve this skill, but unfortunately it is not continuing.
The process involves treating of cotton fabric with buffalo dung. Then myrobalan,a tanin containing pod is pounded and soaked to produce a liquid This is combined with milk and used to soak the fabric. The myrobalan acts as a mordant binding the dye to the cloth and the milk keeps the drawn line from running. The initial drawing is done with a rust iron solution, created by soaking rusty metal with molassas, water, and bran for 14 days. This solution is fairly clear and only develops a black color when in contact with the myrobalan treated cloth. Then an alum solution is painted on areas where red is needed. After drying for one day, the cloth is boiled with madder, vegetable dye. The red only penetrated the areas treated with alum. Many more processes are used for the remaining colors.