January 26, 2021

The Art of Block Print Design

By Camilla Emond
Fjord West Studio block prints


Welcome to my first blog post for 2021! At Fjord West Studio, I strive to educate and share with all of my readers what inspires me to produce what I carefully handcraft and some of the tools of the trade that help me achieve my visions for design, color and style. For this first blog post I would really like to describe one of my favorite processes within designing my handcrafted project bags (both the Fjord bags & Blomma bags), which is called block printing. I will first begin by providing a brief historical overview of this traditional way of printing, how you can block print with your children, what types of inks and materials that I use for block printing, and finally, the colors that I block print with, which  inspire the different styles of bags that I produce.

sketches for block print


Historical Context

Woodblock printing is considered one of the oldest methods of printing. This printing style, originally used with wooden blocks carved out into various shapes, designs, and letters was invented in China around 618-906 AD during the Tang Dynasty (according to silk-road.com). These hand-carved blocks of wood were then printed onto silks and a variety of other materials and cloths. 

traditional Indian block print

Although block printing’s early originations are found throughout China, this method of printing quickly rose to prominence throughout East Asia and India. As mentioned previously, the earliest material used for a block print was wood and, today, most block print designs are carved out of rubber or linoleum.  


Printing with Potatoes!

A great way to introduce block printing to children is to use potatoes instead of rubber or linoleum (which are more costly materials and requires sharper tools to carve with). It’s a great arts and craft opportunity for children to explore different designs, and color combinations. All you need to get started for this project includes: non toxic paints, like Crayola Washable Project Paint, some paint brushes, some cardboard or poster board to print on and a knife (butter knife, pumpkin carving tools, or children’s carving tools) to cut out the designs with (the sharp knife should only be handled by the adults). 

block printing with potatoes

 (Image courtesy of Linocut Boy)


Colors and Design

I draw a lot of inspiration from Montana’s beautiful outdoors which helps me get in the creative mode when I am choosing what colors to use for my prints and how those prints reflect Montana and my Scandinavian heritage. Along with nature’s vibrant and beautiful array of colors, I also pay close attention to textures as well. You can often find me examining the leaves trees closely, or looking very deeply at the flowers around me to get a better sense of blends between texture and colors.  I am a huge advocate for bright colors that contrast against the textiles that I use to print with. 

leaves and shells from nature

Bright colors help uplift any mood and make you feel happy, so here at Fjord West Studio, I strive to braid colors and design to create one-of-a-kind products for my customers so that they can feel happy anywhere. Finally, I pride myself at Fjord West Studio by using only non-toxic inks to print onto my materials. This is important for me because non-toxic ink is friendly to the environment and is a friendly reminder to stay conscious of the materials I use to create. 

non-toxic inks used for my block prints



There are endless designs and colors that you can apply to block printing and I encourage you all to try it yourself. Fortunately, for those starting out, most craft stores carry block print kits and you can also surf the web for some great deals on block print kits as well. For more information about block printing, please visit this link to read more! Thanks for reading my first post about block print - some history, how to introduce children to block printing, Camilla’s colors and design choices and how you too can enjoy this great form of art and self-expression right at home. Thanks again for Fjord West Studio’s first blog post. Stay tuned for more to come and happy crafting!

block print designs printed on canvas

Here are some great resources to get started with block printing:

A guide to techniques & supplies for block printing

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