Originating in India, block printing reached Europe in the 18th century. It consists of printing on fabric using a piece of engraved wood.
These blocks of wood are dipped in a vat of colour. The dyes deposited on the surfaces can colour silk by pressing the block firmly against the fabric.
Using a mallet, printers hit the other side of the block in order to print the design. (Photo 1)
Once completed, this initial printing will be accompanied by other blocks positioned successively, as many times as necessary, in order to build up the textile pattern. (Photo 2)
The first difficulties in this technique lie in the fact that the blocks have little to no reference marker points. The printer therefore has to position the print blocks correctly – to the nearest millimetre.
Despite this, block printing offers other colourful prospects for our printers. The pressure applied to the block and the amount of colour deposited provide nuances and unique effects that can only be achieved using this process. (Photo 3)
When printing our silks, we use coloured paste. (Photo 4)
The thickening of colours is essential for the sharpness of our prints. At the workshop, we create all our colours using a total of 19 parent bases. These are themselves taken from a dissolution of synthetic pigments, water and gum Arabic or guar gum. The dyes obtained are called anionic or acid dyes. They can then be mixed and measured out (with the smallest measurement being 1/1,024 of a litre) in order to create the necessary nuances for the existing formulas. (Photo 5)
Before going ahead with printing, our colourists work long hours researching how to achieve the right colour. Using a range available to them (photo 6) and their experience, they plan patterns based on seasons and orders. (Photo 7) These dyes can be used for our two printing techniques – block printing and flat-screen printing (known as the “Lyonnaise” technique).