Block printing has its origins in ancient China, Japan and India. Although many surfaces can be printed with this technique (using a range of paint and dye inks) fabric and paper are the most commonly used. The basic process consists of drawing or sketching a design, carving it onto a block (wood, metal, clay, rubber, linoleum, etc.), inking the finished block and pressing it into paper or fabric in order to transfer the design.
The inspiration for the "world-fusion" work I create for *spark and blossom* stems from a combination of my passion for the mehndi and textile arts of India, everything on the island of Bali, and my love of the natural world.
My block prints usually begin with a hand drawn sketch which I then re-create as a vector file on my laptop using Adobe Illustrator. After I have fine-tuned the proportion, curves, and symmetry, I transfer the freshly inkjet-printed pattern to the top of my carving block with a homemade wooden tool (and a great deal of rubbing!)
Next, I carefully trace the outline of each shape or letter (all of which appear on the block in reverse) with a fine "v" parting tool, before using a larger "u" gouge to remove all of the "negative" space on the design. Every raised surface I leave on the block will collect ink and therefore transfer to paper, whereas everything I cut away will be "empty" or paper-coloured on the final print. After I have finished a rough cut, I like to clean the block and test it on a scrap sheet of paper, before fine-tuning the curves, cleaning up little missed spots etc.
After I'm fairly happy with a block, I pull out a sheet of nice recycled natural fibre paper, ink the block and make a first "real" print! This "unveiling" is one of my favourite moments in the process (even though I'm usually holding my breath)! I love the interaction between ink and paper, the uneven way it transfers (especially on a nice handmade sheet), the extra depth and texture the paper provides, and the slight angle or uncentredness my human hand-eye co-ordination ensures! I feel a spark of excitement each time I pull the block off the print (or the print off the block, depending on the project) and get a first glimpse of my finished creation!
Visit my pinboards at pinterest or my channel on vimeo for more behind the scenes!