Our latest Design: Wild Earth
One of the greatest pleasures a career in design is seeing your own casual doodles develop and layer, to take on a life of their own, with colour and repeats; printed into a strong fabric, that gives birth to a whole new world of possibilities. That original design becomes art, completely re-envisioned into sumptuous cushions, beautifully gathered lampshades, clashing crisp bedding and fun tableware for entertaining spaces. Read on to see how our latest design, Wild Earth came to life.
Why we use Block Printing.
Blockprinting is an ancient art of printing patterns using engraved wooden blocks. It is simply one of the earliest, simplest and slowest of all methods of textile printing. Block printing by hand is an extraordinarily skilled and slow process, with great patience required, and only very small batches of fabric can be created in one sitting. However, the results are utterly fabulous, completely original one off designs that cannot be replicated in any exact way. What a profound contrast to the expectations of perfection. It is the imperfections that give the final product the perfect result. A fabric found nowhere else with limitless possibilities.
The Origins of Block Printing.
Block printing is thought to have its origins in ancient China over 4,000 years ago, before disseminating throughout Asia and the world. The earliest record of woodblock printing, though, isn't on fabric but on a book known as the Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist text and an early example of woodblock printing with ornate calligraphy. Later these ancient artisan skills would naturally develop into floral and geometric repeats unique to block printing we recognise today.
With such a rich long history, within block printing, there are many different techniques, but it is essentially using a carved piece of wood, in Japan, cherry wood is the preferred. The wooden block is carved by hand so there is less detail and more texture to the final prints.
That Rebel House Block Printing Process
Our designs originate from desire to connect with the world around us and bring that into our homes. We add contrasting layers of colours, adapted many many times, before commiting to a final design. The beauty of block printing as colour therapists will respect, once our block design is decided we can create batches of the same design using alternative layers of colour for a completely different look and feel. Have you seen which of our designs have developed this way....
The new design is carved into a wooden block, actually parts of the block are carved away to create the design shape, as the ink will only be applied to the raised surfaces. Whatever surface is untouched will be what prints onto the cotton. Highly skilled artisans can take anywhere from an hour for a small block piece, to several weeks or even months depending on the size and detail of the image. The wooden blocks are works of art in themselves.
The Wild Earth design is created on the wooden block by carving away parts not wanted in the print, as the ink will only be applied to the raised surfaces to hand print the design. That is some skill to do by hand. Whatever surface is untouched will be what prints onto the cotton fabric. This process can take anywhere from an hour for a small block piece, to several weeks or even months depending on the size and detail of the image. Each section of the design is printed by hand separately. Starting to understand why we are in such awe of these ancient crafts?
There are many different types of ink but an oil-based ink gives the best even coverage and prints well onto cotton fabric. It takes years of experience to perfect the thin layer of ink required for the image to transfer onto the fabric, and then to apply the perfect pressure evenly, since the color will be stronger in some areas of the print than others if uneven pressure is applied. And then it takes days to dry. There is genuinely to quick route to success here.
The Finished Look
As we have shown, block printing truly celebrates the generations of great skilled family artisans who have handed down their knowledge through generations. The beauty of block printing enables us to create original dynamic designs that are complete originals you can't find anywhere else. The small batches we make are used to create a one off collection of tableware bedding, gathered cotton lampshades and gorgeous cushions. But when it is gone, it really is and you are left with a very precious piece that has been thoughtfully design and created from start to finish, as you can appreciate, by a handful of extremely talented people.
Thank you for supporting a genuine small business supporting family artisans and their craftmanship and design skills.