The block print is a common sight in home design, whether swathing throw pillows, upholstery fabric, or gracing napkins on a tabletop. For all its beauty and popularity, this textile tells a complicated history that spans ages and shows the power of craftsmanship in the face of colonization.
Block printing is thought to have its origins in China over 4,000 years ago, before disseminating throughout Asia and the world. The earliest record of block printing, though, isn’t on fabric but on a book known as the Diamond Sutra, which was printed 300 years before the Gutenberg Bible. The story of India’s journey to becoming the epicenter of block printing, though, is complicated.
“The history is patchy,” says Preeti Gopinath, director of the MFA textile program at The New School,