Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kalamkari-The Art of Painting fabric with a Pen-2

I have been wanting to post on this since long. But  I was busy and I also had to go through so much data I collected to sort out material for this post

My previous post on this topic is here:

Hope this was informative. I want to share some more facts on Kalamkari with you. Some of them may be repetitive. So here we go...

Kalamkari uses natural vegetable dyes.These are extracted from fruits, vegetables or minerals. Barks, roots, flowers fruits etc are used for extracting the colours. The fabric used is mostly cotton or sometimes silk which are both made from natural fibers. Kalamkari fabrics become more softer and more beautiful with usage.

The process of Kalamkari is very complicated and tedious. It involves a number of steps and at each step the fabric needs to be washed. I am giving the process in brief here. There may be some variations in the process actually practised from place to place and artist to artist.

  • Cotton cloth or mill cloth of fine quality - unbleached one is used. This is called as "Gada". This with stands a number of washes required during the process. Silk is also used.
  • Cloth is then whitened by immersing in a solution of goat or cow dung and letting it dry in the sun for a few days.
  •  Cloth is then treated in Myrobalan solution. Ripe fruits are used in Machilipatnam, and raw ones in Srikalahasti. This gives a light yellow colour to the cloth and acts as a mordant for fixing the black colour known as "Kasimi". Mordant is a substance that fixes the natural dye on the material. 
  • Then  Milk is added to the solution. This prevents the colour from spreading in the next steps
  • Kalam is prepared from bamboo sticks sharpened at one end (thin or thick) and tied with rags or coarse wool (like the shape of a balloon) a few inches above the tip, for holding the ink. Artists press this rag balloon the release the ink.
  • Desired design is drawn on the cloth with charcoal prepared by burning dried twigs of tamarind tree
  • Black Colour known as Kasimi  is a dye which is iron acetate solution made from fermenting iron pieces and jaggery solution. This Kaismi is the first dye to be used on the cloth. It is used for filling either  solid spaces or as outlines, or for writing texts or narrations, with a brush – pen in Srikalahasti, and wooden blocks in Machilipatnam. 
  •   All the areas meant to be red are painted or printed over with the alum solution as a mordant. 
  •  After applying alum, the cloth is left for at least 24 hours. Then the excess mordant is removed by washing the cloth in flowing water-usually river water.
  •  The dyeing of the red colour is obtained by boiling with the red colouring materials obtained from Madder roots (Manjistha) etc.
  • For blue, earlier Indigo was used. Now Ultramarine blue is being used
  • For green colour, blue is painted on yellow.
  • After applying all colours, the cloth is finally washed and dried.
These days some of the colours used are commercial ones like for red colour and blue.

Both Srikalasthi and Machilipatnam follow almost identical procedures. Srikalahasthi uses the pen and hence scenes from Ramayana and Mahabhartha, Gods and Goddesses and other mythical figures are painted with all the details.This process is very tedious and time consuming as each piece has to be hand drawn. Where as the Machilipatnam school of art uses block prints and hence  mass production is possible.

Here is another site which has given Kalamkari process:

Here are their products:

Keep an eye on my blog..I am going to post more on Kalamkari.....

1 comment:

Madhavi Rao said...

Well written and informative