History of Wood Block Printing

Originating in China around 200AD, Woodblock printing is a technique to print text, images or designs on either paper or fabric. The process is really quite simple although can be made more complex with the addition of multiple colors or complex patterns. A piece of wood is carved out with the text or pattern so that it is in relief of the base of the wood. Then, the raised wood is dipped into ink or natural dye so that it becomes like a stamp. It is applied to the paper or fabric either by stamping or rubbing. The pattern or text then appears, although it is always a mirror image, which can prove tricky with text printing!

Woodblock printing is the earliest, simplest and slowest way to print patterns on textiles. However, it yields a highly detailed pattern that sometimes cannot be produced by any other means.

In India, woodblock printing goes back to medieval times when printed cottons became very popular. The earliest uses were in the printing of interior fabrics for tent linings in the region of Rajasthan for the Maharaja’s military camps, his tented hunting camps or cultural events of grand scale in the villages. At this same time, specialized woodblock printing developed as decorative textiles, specifically in the state of Gujarat. Characterized by black and red designs of birds, animals and dancing women, the antique Gujarat textiles are exquisite and some of the finest examples of woodblock work in India. From Gujarat, the decorative textile trend next moved into Rajasthan where it too became the primary textile pattern method for home interiors. Today Rajasthan remains to be the best place to find both antique and modern woodblock printing.

Our interior fabrics collection is inspired by the antique prints and patterns of early history.