Handblock Printing

Karuna Dawn Organic Cotton Tote Bags featuring age old tradition of hand block printing

Karuna Dawn partnered with an ethical production house in Nepal to create these beautiful organic cotton canvas bags featuring skilled, artisan hand block design handed down from generation to generation.

Our partner in Nepal is a social enterprise with a mission to create jobs that empower marginalised people and survivors of exploitation to fresh starts and fulfilled lives. The staff receive technical skills training, life-skills training (budgeting, relationships, literacy, numeracy, health & nutrition), access to counselling, healthcare, and employer-matched savings in a positive work environment.

The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colours, has been practiced in Rajasthan, India for around 500 years. A print starts with the design, drawn on paper and carved into the Sheesham wood block. Designs are meticulously carved by hand into the blocks which are approximately 18-25 cm across.

Each color in the design is carved into a separate block. The outline block or 'rekh', is the most intricate and usually stamped first; it is typically the outline for a floral or lattice type design. Next comes the fill block or 'datta' and possibly the ground color block or 'gud' depending on the color scheme used. Block carving is in itself an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery and is done entirely by hand.

Once the blocks are carved, the master printer prepares the colors which will be used in printing. The colors are then poured into wooden trays and the blocks stamped in the color each time, then stamped onto the fabric to form the repeat pattern.

Each color pattern is stamped individually onto the fabric; the process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be stamped repeatedly across the fabric, color by color. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The final outcome of this intricate labor is a timeless beauty, and every garment made from this fabric is unique.
Hand block printing content & photos by Mehera Shaw

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