Historical resist printing



Whilst visiting Bratislava I discovered Slovak Blueprinting. This is a process of resist printing with indigo dyeing that has a strong traditional history but is slowly dying out. whilst there I bought this fascinating book on the subject. Ľudová modrotlač v Liptove although it is written in Slovak it is beautifully illustrated and I have used a phone app to translate some sections of the text for me.

Modrotlac slovak resist printing

Woodcut printing blocks used for the printing process

Modrotlac Slovak resist printing

Resist printed on the left and after dyeing on the right

Modrotlac Slovak resist printing

Traditional Slovak costume using the blueprint designs

Previously when I considered resist printing I only really thought about batik, we all learn this at school at some point, but this process called Modrotlac in Slovakia became really fascinating. The actual recipe for the resist paste is still a heavily guarded secret and was almost certainly different from one family to another but is thought to be a mixture of painters clay, gum arabic, rye flour and some form of salve (oxen fat or lard). But the beauty of this is it’s simplicity, using materials that would be fairly easy to get. This clay mix is printed onto cotton fabric using wooden printing blocks and then when dry dipped into an indigo vat. sometimes the process is repeated to achieve a double blue pattern.

On further research I discovered many other instances of similar techniques in many other countries:

Dabu in India – Uses a paste made from black earth, tree gum and a powder made from wheat grains. This is printed onto cotton fabric then dusted with fine sawdust to set it. It is then dyed often in indigo but sometimes in combinations of colours.

Japanese Katazome – uses nori paste a mixture of Sweet rice flour, rice bran, salt and calcium hydroxide in water. Making it is a fairly involved process but I have found ready made nori paste it seems it is used as a traditional glue in bookbinding.

Chinese Nankeen – a mixture of soy beans and lime make a plaster like paste that is spread through paper stencils before being dyed in indigo.

African Adire printing – uses a cassava flour mixture as the resist paste that is painted onto fabric through a zinc template before being dyed. see also http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0005/000546/054697EB.pdf

I have started to think about using these techniques within my own work. I like the idea of the layer of resist representing a barrier – a fragile space between life and death. When the resist is removed what remains is an empty space, rather like when a loved one has died.



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