So What’s Block Printing, Anyway?
My one and only workshop this year at Craftcation indie biz and DIY conference, as you may have seen in the previous Craftcation post, is Block Printing. So… what is that? And why would it be good to know?
Let’s back up a little and talk about printmaking as a whole. Printmaking is basically anything you do that creates something with a repeated image (a textbook definition would be much longer and include all kinds of other cool things, like the word “matrix”, but I’m boiling it down here).
So block printing is using a “block” of something (more on that later) to create a relief print. That means you as the printer would carve pieces out of the block and what’s left (after you carve) will hold color and print onto a surface. The best surfaces to print on are fabric and paper, since they are both porous enough to hold ink well and regular enough that the ink prints uniformly.
Blocks can be made of anything from wood (difficult to carve, requiring special tools- these prints are known as wood-block prints) to linoleum (a specific kind of linoleum, also requiring special tools- these prints are known as lino-cut prints) to rubber (yes, rubber stamps are block prints!) to… potatoes. Yes, I have used potatoes in classes for printing! Potatoes are much less expensive than lino blocks or wood blocks, therefore allowing more experimentation and discards as people learn the process. Potatoes are obviously the most eco-friendly block printing solution, as they can be composted and do not need to be processed. I’d only recommend them for very basic shapes, though, as their consistency can make it difficult to carve intricate details. At Craftcation, we’ll have several printing options, none of which require a fancy press, and all of which can be easily done at home or at a small studio.
Why can block printing be useful for you? Well, most people still use paper business cards. What if each of your cards was hand-printed with a cool design or your logo? If you print your own business cards or letterheads at home, you could add the block print before or after adding your information. If you order your cards, you could add this design to the back or an empty area of your cards. Do you work in fabric or wrap your finished items in fabric? A beautiful touch would be to have unique hand-printed fabric that you know won’t be duplicated anywhere. Most items are delivered to customers in paper bags or even shipping envelopes- you could customize those as well. Basically any piece of paper or fabric that your customer sees can help further your brand and message, so you have opportunities to add a personalized touch to all of them with this skill.
And of course block printing has personal uses. What about wallpaper for your home? You can purchase some cheap, plain wallpaper and add your own pattern to it. And then there’s your clothing…. That old jacket could be updated and ever-so-chic with a new pattern added to it.
(photos above from Craftcation 2012)