With everyone now stuck at home for what seems like an indefinite time, I thought I would try to pass on the one home activity that I can, just to share, in the hopes that maybe it gives some of the families out there some fun activities to do together! And to me at least, what could be more fun (if impossibly difficult to replicate), than the master artisans of India and their amazing blockprint work that they do in creating my sustainable clothing line.
This is all taken from my amazing class that I did with my all-time favourite organisation here in Byron Bay, Future Dreamers, where I met and did a class on block printing with the girls there earlier this year. In case you missed it you can read the full article here. It was an ode to all things sustainable, learning how the artisan masters in India use blockprinting to create the most amazing clothes.
My re-creation though, and these types of classes can be as serious or as much work as you want to make them - so I've tried to keep it relatively basic and straightforward so that you can follow along fairly easily from home.
And even if you don't want to follow - maybe it can just be an insight into the ancient art of block printing and how special and magical it truly is!
LET'S GET STARTED!
Ideally, you will have an old sheet of fabric or cloth lying around you'd like to use. If not, you could use a pillowcase, or anything cloth basically, that you would like to make a design of, and hopefully keep. The more fabric there is, the more important it is to stretch it fully to make it tight before you paint. Ideally, you would do it on a table like your dining table, stretching the fabric across the table and applying clamps at each end. Be sure to cover the area under the fabric with newspaper or similar. If you are using a larger area of fabric you are intending to cut into shapes afterward, we suggest drawing a box with a pencil and ruler first to paint inside.
Now for these purposes, any kind of paint will do. In India, I typically work only with all-natural dyes - which come from the most amazing array of plants and vegetables. Whilst these can be bought in packets, obviously, that is a little trickier now, and the more natural the dye the harder they usually are to work with and require more care and preparation.
For this exercise, and indeed the class I did at Future Dreamers, using a simple acrylic paint or similar is fine and will do the job. Basically any paint your child would have in their craft cubby would be fine to use. The more colors you have, the more options you can make and mix together. Mix them into the sponge, one sponge per tray, for each color you want to create. The sponge is used to retain the paint and make it easier to stamp and spread across the fabric.
The art of application and spreading across the stamp is indeed almost as important as the stamping itself as practiced by the true masters but in our examples its just a fun way to hold the paint!
The blocks are typically lovingly created and cared for, washed and left to rest overnight in oil at times. For our purposes - if you have any ancient or traditional stamps lying around like this - great. Otherwise, almost anything that can be found lying around the house can be used to create fun and unique stamps. A bottle cap, a bottle, a container, half a lemon or orange - basically anything that provides a shape that you like and can create a pattern for you to work with. This part of the exercise is only limited by your imagination!
Anyone who follows any kind of artisanal brand or indeed maybe even a mainstream clothing company these days would have surely seen video footage of artisans in India hammering big wooden blocks onto screens as part of the screen or block printing. To watch them practice and repeat this step spreading a uniform pattern and ink is truly amazing to behold. For us, however, the practice will be a little more fun and probably a little less uniform. I usually suggest starting at the outside to make the border, and then working your way in - but the truth is there is really no limit here. Mix and match as many patterns and shapes as you can and like to create whatever amazing and fun design you have in mind.
Once done, the fabric or item you used should be dried in the sun (if you have access to any) or just left to sit until it dries. Depending on the paint and fabric this can take up to a few hours, but touch it and you will know when it has dried enough. If you are wanting a more permanent use of what you have painted, and depending on the paint you have used, you can wash it to clean it - but again this can lead to bleeding and a big mess depending on what type of paint you have used and on what kind of surface.
Next comes cutting out the area you have painted into shapes. If you drew a box in pencil in Step 1, now is the time to cut it out, preferably using fabric scissors. If you don't have those regular scissors should be fine.
Use and show off and enjoy your creation in any way you see fit.
And don't forget to clean up!
And don't forget to clean up!
I hope you were able to follow along and enjoy, and you can always take a look here at my day with Future Dreamers where I taught the local girls this skill, and would love the chance to go back there and teach them something so fun an enjoyable one day soon.