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Block Carving
      &
Block Printing 

A block on the verge of completion with the carvers most essential tools.

                                                                                        -Sanganer, 2019

A large slice of Teak
A large slice of Teak

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Vikas with two good pieces
Vikas with two good pieces

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He then rubs the white powder on the slab
He then rubs the white powder on the slab

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A large slice of Teak
A large slice of Teak

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Wood Selection

First, the slab of Teak wood must be examined to ensure it is a specimen worthy of a detailed design that may be used for up to 50 years, and sometimes even longer. This involves checking for cracks, soft spots, flatness, etc. Once the slab is chosen it can be cut down to a workable size, and the surface is sanded and painted white so that the design can be easily followed by the carver.

Tracing

Then the tracer nails the design on to the block, and using a thin, flat stick of tamarind wood, he begins to tap a thin iron tool with a rounded head along the lines of the design to make little marks in the wood beneath that resemble a dotted line. The amount of skill and concentration needed to trace complex designs usually requires one or two people per crew of carvers that are dedicated strictly to this part if the process. 

Vikas tracing a design
Vikas tracing a design

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The traced pattern
The traced pattern

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Another tracer working on a design
Another tracer working on a design

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Vikas tracing a design
Vikas tracing a design

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Kahlil working on a Block
Kahlil working on a Block

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The rainbow fish block
The rainbow fish block

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IMG-4682
IMG-4682

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Kahlil working on a Block
Kahlil working on a Block

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Carving

The block is then passed on to the carver. He has a set of about 20 iron tools with heads sharpened into of various shapes and sizes by hand, for whatever the design desires. He uses these tools along with his wooden hammer made of Tamarind or another hard wood to remove any material that is not part of the design, basically creating a large wooden stamp. The content usually being a repeating pattern so the block can be used to print thousands of meters of fabric with a seemingly endless design.  

Adding Colors

Once the outline is carved, the tracer will rub black ink over the block so that it can be printed on paper. When it is decided that there are no corrections to be made, one specific color of the design is traced on to another block using the paper print, and is then carved out. This step is repeated for every color of the design. For example, 5 color design, 5 different blocks.

Each block is another color of the design
Each block is another color of the design

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Checking a seahorse color block
Checking a seahorse color block

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Each block is another color of the design
Each block is another color of the design

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Block Printing

Ram Teerth printing the background color for the Byrds print.

Testing the Blocks

Before the printers can get to work, they must first test the blocks to check for mistakes, and make sure the blocks  match up properly with both color and design.

One of the printers tests out each block to make sure everything works.

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So far so good.

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Sometimes the blocks need a small correction so Vikas comes over to preform a little block surgery.

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One of the printers tests out each block to make sure everything works.

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Printing

Once the blocks pass the sampling stage, they are ready for action. Long sheets of fabric are pinned down on tables about 15 feet long. One printer starts with the outline first, unless a background color is needed, and then another printer comes in behind him with the next color in the sequence. And so on... The accuracy  and endurance, along with the keen eyes and steady hands of the printers is astounding. In a seemingly meditative state, they float between the tables layering colors until the design is complete.