Reviving ancient Kalamkari through ‘Tree of Life’

The labour intensive process of Kalamkari art is being taught by Mumbai-based Iteeha studio and Bengaluru-based The Arts Village

Published: 24th April 2018 11:56 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th April 2018 03:45 AM   |  A+A-

Participants at the Kalamkari workshop

By Express News Service

BENGALURU:  Intro- A labour intensive process of Kalamkari art, is being taught by Mumbai-based Iteeha studio and Bengaluru-based The Arts Village in the city

A revival of folk art ensues as art lovers rediscover their interest of tradition, namely, Andhra Pradesh born Kalamkari art. What is usually famous for being seen on fabric in the fashion industry is that this textile art is a four-day and 14-step process with no concept of pencil and eraser.

Sounds tough? To make this understandable, Iteeha and The Arts Village are conducting a 'Kalamkari Tree of Life' workshop to teach participants the basic motifs and style of Kalamkari drawing.

Ritika Jhunjhunwala, creative head of Iteeha says, "Kalamkari is done either in block prints or paints on textile, but for now it will be taught on handmade paper. Artists feel they can't do Kalamkari because it is too difficult but the important part is just that the drawing needs to be good, with knowledge of specific style and motifs of Kalamkari. It is done without use of any pencil or eraser but just a charcoal piece to draw the outline. The 12-14 step process includes use of natural dyes, boiling, washing and drawing. We are specifically using the 'tree of life' for design for this session."

"The tree of life workshop is a symbol of a fresh start on life, positive energy and immortality. The tree grows old, yet it bears seeds that contain its very essence, a metaphor for symbol of growth and strength," she adds.

What does tree of life mean

The art piece usually take four days to complete, after treating the fabric with milk, using black, red, blue and yellow ink, she adds. Ask her what The tree of life means and she explains, "This motif is the most basic in several folk art forms. It essentially has all elements, so the person learns how to draw each line going to flower, fruits, animals and birds. It reflects positivity through the blooming tree. Once they get the design, they can make their own kind of tree keeping in mind its style." She adds," It is important to understand the process behind this ancient tradition."

This philosophy is what Iteeha studio swears by in general. They tie up with 200 artisans from all over the country, invite them to conduct classes for the public and also personally undertake rigorous training by living with the folk artists.

"While Kalamkari is part of a series of short workshops, we have also been teaching gond, madhubani, calligraphy and more. Our team visits Bengaluru each month to hold regular classes, for example, 14-day intensive workshops where we teach how to draw human motifs, creating a tale because that is what Kalamkari is all about, an artistic representation of mythology," Ritika adds.

Kalamkari textiles used as scrolls

Elaborating on the significance of Kalamkari is the historical context, she explains that, previously the Kalamkari textiles were used on scrolls as a backdrop for the deity or walls of South Indian temples. "Now the usage of it has changed, which is not a bad thing as it gives wings to artists for improvisation. If there was no room left for variations, then the folk art would die at its source," she adds.

Kalamkari Workshop

Interested participants can call for queries on 75061 22332 or send an e-mail to The class will be from 4 to 6 pm, at The Arts Village on St Marks Road.

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