Ajrakh Block Printing

On the first day, Aakib Bhai spoke about the process in detail, including a demonstration on how to make color. Students watched as he printed, resist first, color later. Everyone had a chance to try printing, and at the end, what we had was a collection of different blocks printed across a sheet of cloth!

In the days to come, students divided themselves into groups, and in rotation, learnt important techniques, and innovated with designs and textures along with Aakib bhai. To each group, he introduced a new technique, and at the end of the week, everyone had fallen in love with printing! Not to mention the sore wrists that banged the block!

Here’s from our Diary:

: Any type of cloth can be used to print, as per this technique, with the use of Natural colors. The cloth is cut as per the requirement, soaked and left in water overnight/for 24hours, to remove starch and let the cloth shrink.

: Dried and powdered Myrobalan is mixed with water, to make a paste and the cloth is boiled in the solution/paste so that the cloth retains the black used in printing. For drying off the Myrobalan, the cloth must be dried in sunlight. Then, resist printing is done on the cloth, to resist penetration of the colours which may be used on the cloth, on the designs so needed/used. To obtain a two-colour pattern on cloth, a resistant paste is applied in the desired design; the paste contains a substance resistant to a second dye, which is then applied to the cloth, developing colour only in the areas not covered by the paste.

: The resist paste is made by mixing lime and gum. For any type of painting, a brush with strong bristles is used, and for printing, blocks made of Sak wood is used.

: Black color is then prepared, for printing by blocks, or for colouring the cloth, by mixing jaggery and rusted iron, in water, for about 15-20 days. Red color, which could again be printed or painted over, is prepared by mixing together alum, clay and natural
gum. Indigo or blue colour can be prepared by either using Indian indigo, which takes about 15-20 days to prepare, or German indigo, which is ready to use. For a green color, turmeric, pomegranate bark powder and water can be mixed with blue. For a yellow color, turmeric could be used.

: The final step is to boil the cloth so printed, in Alizarin, which is a natural compound, to remove the resist paste and excess colour and to make the colours permanent on the cloth. The cloth is then washed in cold water, and is ready for use.

The image below explains the process, visually. Look right to left to understand the process.

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