You've had some glimpses of the workshops in the post on Bagru, but here's a more detailed look at the whole process.
Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing in Amber, Rajasthan. The white coating on the block helps the carver see the design develop and is washed off before the block is used for printing. He holds a fairly heavy metal bar in one hand and his chisel in the other, striking the chisel precisely to make these incredibly fine incisions.
The Indian Block Company.) All the workshops we visited had piles of fantastically textured blocks that were just begging to be photographed, so here are some unedifying but pretty pictures:
Next the fabric goes to the dye bath. In this case, an indigo bath.
Now for the most part I am not a huge fan of "ethnic" prints. All I really knew of Indian fabric before this trip were the bedspreads everyone draped around their dorm rooms in college, and I thoroughly disliked those. The colors look murky to me, the fabrics are coarse, and I just never liked the patterns. I liked the wooden blocks better than the fabric! The fabric I saw in India was nicer quality, softer cottons, but most of the colors were earthy browns, yellows, reds - not my cup of tea! I'm a blue and green girl. Well, de gustibus non est disputandum, as my mother used to say (no, seriously, she did. At the drop of a hat.) Lots of people like earth colors. I did eventually find fabric in colors and weights that I like. :
Then we took a shopping trip to Anokhi, a high-end store in Jaipur that specializes in modern block-printed fabric. They've been around for a couple of generations, working with the craftsmen to develop gorgeous contemporary patterns on lovely soft cotton and silk fabric. (In fact they financed the museum mentioned earlier.) Their clothing and housewares were spectacular. I could have cheerfully brought home most of their things! They have a US website but the prices are high even by American standards. I'm not saying the pieces aren't worth it, though! Unfortunately the website photos don't do justice to the fabric.
Here's what I bought at Anokhi:
A gorgeous robe and
a handkerchief and
See how the tunic is finished with subtle gold decorations? The gold is applied in a thick paste and you can feel it as a raised pattern on the finished fabric. Here is a really really bad photo of the tools used to apply it:
So there you have it, the basic process by which block-printed fabric is produced. Whew! I still dislike those bedspreads, but I'm awed by the amount of work that goes into them