An exquisite art of India 

CE speaks with artisans and designers about the revival of Kalamkari in fashion and more.
Kalamkari art. (Photo | Express)
Kalamkari art. (Photo | Express)

HYDERABAD: Kalamkari is a hand-painted or block-printed textile which is fabricated in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. There are two kinds of this art - Srikalahasti which is a pen-drawn style and Machilipatnam style which is the vegetable dyed wooden block print on the fabric.

Kalamkari is known for its usage of natural dyes obtained from various kinds of roots, leaves, minerals of iron and copper, cow dung, seeds, crushed plants and flowers. The fabric used for the base is mainly cotton or silk.

The art form used in this printing style is derived from the Hindu mythology of Ramayana and Mahabharata. In recent times, Buddhist symbols, musical instruments, small animals and swastika symbols are also used as motifs.

From soaking the fabric in astringent to drying it in the sun and adding the dyes, the printing of Kalamkari is a process of patience and craftsmanship. K.Balamani, a national award winner and entrepreneur of hand-block textiles, says, “It takes approximately four days to dye a fabric with Kalamkari print. We first wash the fabric a day before and then use the powder of Indian hog plum to dye the cloth, this acts as an astringent solution for dyeing. The cloth is later dried in the sun and the black solution is used to outline the cloth. This is later washed in running water for the removal of wax and extra dye. This is finally soaked in hot water for ten minutes and dried completely to get the final fabric.”

When asked about the market status of Kalamkari prints, Kautilya, the co-owner, of Panchabhuta Co. says, “Kalamkari fabrics have seen a revival in the fashion circles with many famous designers and celebrities being spotted sporting Kalamkari painted stoles, sarees, blouses and tops. Kalamkari fabrics are also being used in handmade bags, boxes, ties, scarves etc. Overall, the market trend has seen an upward swing and is set to rise further as more and more people become aware of the ancient art.”

The prominent places to shop for these fabrics would be Fabindia and Cotton On outlets or Secunderabad General Bazaar in case you are looking for a local street shopping option. The uniqueness of these prints or any hand-block prints is that they are known for their healing powers, that is the natural dyes support health benefits and are environmentally friendly. “It gives me immense joy to see these traditional hand-painted fabrics of Indian culture back in the fashion game,” concludes Kautilya.

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The New Indian Express
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