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Hard to miss given their vibrance, intricate floral block prints are suddenly sprouting up everywhere. In recent weeks, the style has steadily shown up in everything from tablecloths to stationery, and at stores like Nickey Kehoe in Los Angeles and November 19 in New York. And while the technique dates back almost 4,500 years, there’s a movement of international designers—from Serena Dugan to Schumacher with its recent Jacaranda collection—that are giving the heritage design a 21st-century twist.

If you’re not familiar with the technique, block printing involves dipping hand-carved embossed wood into dyes and pressing it into fabric or paper repeatedly, creating a print. The technique originated in China and was later adopted by Indian artisans. So at thousands of years old, the craft is not exactly new, but a series of contemporary printers have theories as to why it’s having a resurgence. 


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Courtesy of Katharine Watson

In 2006, Poonam Abbi, a former social worker, and her husband started Sustainable Threads, a fair-trade social enterprise selling handmade block-printed pieces, and even they’ve noticed an uptick in sales in recent years. She credits the pattern’s imperfect, handmade nature. “The pandemic made us look inward and reconsider the importance of our things,”says Abbi. “Value grows when you learn how something is made, who made it, and the culture and economy you’re supporting by purchasing it.” Her brand works with traditional artisans and displaced people who’d been exiled from the mainstream workforce due to physical handicaps and social stigmas. 

Courtesy of Sustainable Threads

Sarah Zellweger of SZ Block Prints holds a similar philosophy on storytelling through objects. Her brand launched seven years ago, growing from a market stall to a company with more than 100 printers in Jaipur. Its most popular pieces include block-printed dresses and blankets. “Having a handcrafted product is the highest form of luxury,” she shares. “People can tell how much work goes into our products.”

Zellweger upcycles the designs of the artisans she adores that came before her, drawing on heritage prints from the 1960s and ’70s. She believes much of block printing’s recent popularity stems from the ability to mix and match classics with the latest designs. “Block printing creates statement pieces that are timelessly striking, and mixing prints generates newness,” she says. Her reversible blankets and juxtaposing color blends of soft tans and hot pinks marry classic and contemporary design seamlessly.

This modern approach to pattern means that block printing can mesh with any home or type of decor, from traditional to minimalist. Sustainable Threads is known for its geometric patterns and neutral colors, all of which are newer takes on artisan classics—and go with everything, from farm tables to sexy curved sofas. 


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And then there’s the Instagram effect. Katharine Watson founded her namesake block-printing studio and online shop in 2009 in a converted barn in Maine, and says she’s noticed more maximalism on her feed lately. “Up until recently, neutrals and simple designs were popular,” notes Watson. “Now people want heavy patterns and bright colors in response to that.” In other words, bring on the block prints. 

On the Table

On The Bed

On The Sofa

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