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Kalamkari is an ancient Indian art that originated about 3000 years ago. It derives its name from Kalam meaning Pen, and Kari meaning work, literally Pen-work. The Kalamkari artist uses a bamboo or date palm stick pointed at one end with a bundle of fine hair attached to this pointed end to serve as the brush or pen. These paintings were earlier drawn on cotton fabric only, but now we can see these paintings on silk and other materials as well. The Kalamkari art includes both, printing and painting. The colors used in making these paintings are organic. Most of the colors are prepared using parts of plants – roots, leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants. There are numerous forms and styles of this type of painting throughout the Indian subcontinent.
In ancient India, the art of painting using organic colors and dyes was very popular, but this style of painting originated at Kalahasti (80 miles north of Chennai) and at Masulipatnam (200 miles east of Hyderabad). The paintings then used to depict Hindu Deities and the scenes from Hindu mythology. Masulipatnam being a muslim region, the weavers were involved in the block printing art whereas the artists from Kalahasti practiced painting Hindu mythological scenes.
The styles of Kalamkari Paintings:
Owing to Muslim rule in Golconda, the Masulipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely adapted to suit their taste. The outlines and main features are done using hand carved blocks. The finer details are later done using the pen.
The Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple region mostly concentrated on themes form Hindu mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of Gods and heroes.
Karrupur is a style of Kalamkari that developed in the Thanjavur region during the Maratha rule. The Kalamkari work was a further embellishment to the gold brocade work in the woven fabric, which was used as sarees & dhotis by the royal family during the period of Raja Sarfoji and later Raja Shivaji.
The process is very slow and vigorous. The kalamkari goes through a process of resist – dyeing and hand printing. There are lots and lots of treatments involved before and after the painting are done. The colors change depending on the treatment of cloth and quality of the mordant. Every step in the process is painstakingly done and with perfection.
Tools and Raw Materials Used:
The tools and raw materials used for the production of traditional Kalamkari printing are basic handmade and natural materials. Kalam-bamboo pen is the most important tool used in printing process. This is made of bamboo reed. A cotton cloth is rolled over the reed and it is tangled by a cotton thread. Two types of kalams are prepared for outlining and color filling processes. The cotton cloth used for the fabric printing is locally called as Gaada. Vegetable dye stuffs like Myrobalan flower (Karakapuvvu locally) and Myrobalan bud (Karakapinde locally) used to make the black dye permanent. Chavalakodi and suruduchekka are the two types of roots which are procured from local forest areas are grounded into powder to obtain red color. Pomegranate skin is used to obtain light yellow color. Alum is the mordant used in dyeing process. Khatta-is the substance boiled to obtain lighter red color.
Kasim kaaram-Iron black color solution prepared using rusted iron filings, cane jaggery and palm jaggery. These materials are dissolved in water in a closed earthen pot and allowed for fermentation. After 10 days the solution is filtered and the iron filings are taken out. The prepared Kasim kaaram is used for drawing outlines and to fill black color. The tamarind stems are burned and made into charcoal. This charcoal is used for initial sketching. The buffalo milk is used to treat the cloth which helps to avoid color spreading.
How to Draw Kalamkari:
Kalamkari has come a long way from representing art as religious paintings to now as a fashion relic; thanks to the current age fashion creative geniuses like Gaurang Shah who have presented this once a dying art in a new avatar,bringing it back in vogue.Kalamkari on fabric was initially done only on cotton fabrics but nowadays,this form of art has gained popularity on silk sarees and dresses. One of the more recent forms of creating a kalamkari saree involves applying patches with kalamkari motifs on them with one bold motif dominating the pallu of the saree while the border has smaller kalamkari patterns in continuity. These sarees are very artsy and although the art is ancient, the sarees are more modern and look classy to be worn on any formal occasion.
Six yards of elegance and comfort. That is what a saree is. We don’t think ….
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