The Camden Block

Back in my 20's I loved a trip upto London to spend a day losing myself in the depths of Camden Market, rummaging through second hand clothes, silver jewellery, Levis jeans and old suede jackets, followed by an evening at Ronnie Scotts, upstairs, dancing the night away in the Salsa Club.

I can recall the exact shop in which I picked up this decoratively carved wooden printing block, which I was assured at the time, was hand carved, much to the dis-belief of my Dad when I took it home and showed him, who believed it couldn't be possible.
It was used as a door stop for many years, with a short period abandoned to the loft and more recently resurrected and is now proudly displayed on the book shelf.


Although I had been told it was a printing block, I don't think that I truly grasped the concept and appreciated the work that had gone into making this block and more to the point what beautiful fabrics it must have printed in its time.

Many blocks find their way to charity shops, markets stalls and Antique shops around the world as they have been damaged and lose corners or pieces break away over the years of intense printing and repetitive pounding. As with my block, it has visible damage to the edges and finely carved detail, although, this can be forgiven as I bought it 30 years ago, therefore it's quite possible it is 50 years old or more.

Having travelled to India, printed in Jaipur and watched the highly skilled craft of the Chippas in Sanganer, I now treasure this block for many reasons.

This Summer I decided to see how well it printed, however I soon realised that the wood had severely warped over the years rendering it impossible to use, despite efforts to heat, steam and flatten it. 
I was also in the process of designing and ordering my own blocks from our friend in Jaipur and just by chance told him the story of the block and asked if it was at all possible to have it re-made just from a photo. He assured me - Yes Yes - we can do that!

Of course they can!

And he did, and to my great surprise, the block was re-created to the exact design, detail and size of the original one I had bought 30 years ago...all from a photo.


So, what does the print look like - well this is some linen printed with the new block -  It prints and repeats beautifully.


The original block proudly remains on the book shelf and is there to tell its story, while its new counterpart will hopefully live for another 50 years and beyond!