Woodblock printing art is one of the oldest traditional handicrafts in Anatolia and has an important place amongst the others. Woodblock printing is a fabric printing technique made with hand drawing or pressing the wooden blocks. As in other arts, the traditions and customs and the master-apprentice relations have been effective in continuation of the woodblock printing art.
Anatolia has been like a bridge between the cultures, civilizations during the history. The discoveries revealed many seals and stamps of baked clay from Hittites which had been the first civilization in Anatolia. Several resources argue that these blocks shaped in spiral and 4-leaf flower are used for the first printing samples. In B.C. 395, Oghuz Turks made Anatolia the center of the Turkish art and culture. It is known that printing had been one of the various arts and the foreign originated communities (like Assyrian, Armenians etc.) had engaged in printing in Anatolia.
Considering the examples arrived today, the prints can be gathered under 2 groups as monochromic and multicolored. In both groups, the printing is done by sopping the wooden blocks in paint, pressing them on the fabric or applying the paint on the fabric with a brush. Amongst the prints from the first group, “Samatya, Kumkapı, Yenikapı” prints of Istanbul and the pieces made in Anatolia as “Kastamonu, Tokat, Diyarbakır” are significant ones. The main centers in where the woodblock printing had been common are Tokat, Kastamon, Ankara and its environment, Elazığ, Malatya, Bartın, Gaziantep, Mardin and Hatay. Today more than 200 pieces of woodblocks are preserved in Kastamonu Museum.
THE FABRICS USED
The quality of the fabric is important in woodblock printing. The most suitable fabrics are the ones made of cotton. Cotton quickly absorbs the paint when it is applied and prevents its running down. The synthetic fabrics are not preferred in printing. The local loom fabrics, American cloth named as hood cloth by the local community and mermerşahı (book muslin) are the types used in printing as well. Beside these, gauze, cotton fabrics like calico are also used.
THE BLOCKS USED
The blocks used in the printing are 2 types. These are the metal and wooden blocks. The metal blocks are made by bending the metal strips and penetrating them on the wood. These are usually used in very thin contour printing and reserved printing system. The wooden blocks are mostly made with lime, pine, hornbeam and wild pear trees. The most practical blocks are the ones of lime and hornbeam trees.
In Tokat printing, the blocks are just carved of lime tree. The blocks are soft, water resistant and absorbent. When the block is completed, it is sunk into a mixture of 75% paraffin (or tallow) and 25% beeswax. Thus, the block becomes more long-lasting, resistant and is not affected by the paint.
THE PAINTS AND COLORING
The paints used in printing can be 2 types: natural paints and synthetic paints. In Turkey, there are various numerous herbs to be used as paint. These herbs contain diverse painting substances in their different parts (as flowers, leaves, peels, woods, roots). The natural paints used in printing can be prepared with herbs like buckthorn, onion skin, walnut leaves. However, the industrial synthetic paints are used more today. The prints are colored with 4 different techniques: charcoal (black print on white fabric), etching (white print on black fabric), sinking and blue bleaching. The printing made with wooden blocks is called as “stone printing” in the region.
The restriction put on art under Islamic rules, can also be seen in printing as in public arts and it required a certain styling. The composition is formed of the patterns based on the variety and richness of nature by combining the patterns of the various types of flowers and the leaves, the trees and animals. The patterns used in printing differ as to the regions and periods as well as the purpose.