How the Originality & Exquisiteness of Kalamkari Print Fabric found a Place on Runways?

Originality & Exquisiteness of Kalamkari Print Fabric

Kalamkari Print Fabric

India is diverse in its clothing collection and art form. One such artistic print style is Kalamkari. Just like the beautiful name it owns, it carries a splendidly detailed art form that weaves a story on fabric.

The name Kalamkari can be broken down into two separate words, Kalam which means pen and kari means craftsmanship. The kalam is made from bamboo trees to help define the finesse of the art. From the 17th Century till today, Kalamkari has been a timeless classic and the most loved art form in India.

Originating from Andhra Pradesh, the exquisite Kalamkari was hand painted. These paintings depicted mythological tales of earlier times and were painted using vegetable colour. The inspiration was taken from nature. Hence, the motifs included flowers, trees, rivers, birds, mountains, etc.

The Indian textile tradition, simple cotton Kalamkari fabric, created a greater impact through its design and revolutionised the garment trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. That’s not all. So, let’s dive into the history of Kalamkari fabric.

Kalamkari Print Fabric - The Tradition Of India

Kalamkari Print Fabric with meter tape

In the Middle Ages, a pictorial painting was once found in the wealthy peak of the Golconda Sultanate, Hyderabad. The Mughals who patronised this craft in the Coromandel and Golconda province called the practitioners of this craft "Qualamkars", from which the term "Kalamkari" evolved.

Due to its exquisite design and fine workmanship, the fabric received all the attention and appreciation. The domestic and international demands kept increasing; therefore, Kalamkari print fabric was exported out of India. Major trade took place in the later centuries as Persians and Europeans were highly impressed by Kalamkari.

However, in 1950, Kalamkari fabric took a major setback and became extinct. After the efforts of the Indian Government and the artisans to make its place in the international market, it is still a renowned fabric.

Motif And Making Of The Classic Kalamkari:

No artificial dyes are used to make Kalamkari. Instead, artisans use natural dyes, making the Kalamkari fabric look uniquely beautiful. It has two types of print, hand and block printing.

The patterns drawn on the kalamkari fabric are called motifs. These motifs are nature inspired and creatively printed on the fabric. It takes nearly 17 steps for Kalamkari to get complete. A few steps include dyeing, bleaching, hand painting or printing, block printing, starching, cleaning and fixation. The quality of the fabric used for kalamkari is excellent, for it can take up to 20 washes without any diminution.

The glossiness of the fabric is from the resin and cow milk mixture, in which the material is kept soaked for at least an hour before starting the process. Varying effects are achieved on the fabric using cow dung, seeds, crushed flowers and different varieties of plants. The cloth has to be washed after every single application of the dye.

Kalamkari has a distinctive colour pattern that follows various themes. Kalamkari fabrics depict Gods in blue, demons in red and green, and women figures represented in yellow. Most of the time, the backgrounds are red and feature lotus motifs.

The most widely recognised topic continued in Kalamkari is religion showing sublime artistic creations of sun chariots, well-known divinities, and scenes from extraordinary sagas - Ramayana, Mahabharata and incredible Indian legendary works of art.

Most home furnishings, including bed covers, curtains, and other items, are made in the Machalipatnam style of Kalamkari art. Since this is done by hand, there are no exact parallels between the two panels. Kalamkari's paintings are an excellent example of art that uses natural colours. They are mostly made from the bark, flowers, and roots of plants and don’t involve synthetic or chemical dyes.

Exquisiteness Of The Kalamkari Fabric:

One of the distinctive features of Kalamkari is its type and attractive design. The two types of Kalamkari fabrics are Kalahasti Kalamkari and Machilipatnam Kalamkari.

It is one of the two styles of Kalamkari craftsmanship, including coloured hand painting of the textures. The fact that the Kalamkari designs are drawn by hand using the "kalam," or pen, is a distinctive aspect of this particular style.

Additionally, Hindu mythology is the primary design source for the Kalahasti or Srikalahasti Kalamkari art.

Most of this type of art is produced in Srikalahasti, a small town in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

The artisans begin the process by treating the cloth with a mordant before drawing the design's outline in black. Each piece of Kalahasti Kalamkari is distinctive because each design is hand-drawn and painted freehand.

It is impressive that a 3000-year-old craft of pen Kalamkari still survives, unaltered and majestic in its simplicity. Absorbing various influences like screen printing, the craft has managed to retain its traditional identity and unique character. Whether hand-painted or block-printed, the traditional designs and motifs of the craft speak a language of their own, and it is by recognising this inner voice that the future of the art can be secured.

Machilipatnam Kalamkari, also known as Pedana Kalamkari, differs from pen craft because it involves block painting on fabric. The patterns are already carved by hand on wooden blocks. After that, they are printed on the fabric and coloured with vegetable dyes to fill the gaps.

Pedana, a small town near Machilipatnam in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, is where most of this art is made.

The well-known themes for Machilipatnam Kalamkari are blossoms, creepers and leaf plans. Additionally, at least two or three distinct blocks are required to achieve the desired design on the fabric. Pedana and the neighbouring villages of Machilipatnam, Polavaram, and Kappaladoddi are the only places where Machilipatnam or Pedana Kalamkari art is made.

It has likewise been enrolled as one of the topographical signs from Andhra Pradesh by the Geological Signs of Merchandise Act, 1999, under workmanship products.

How To Choose The Original Kalamkari Fabric:

Original Kalamkari Fabric

The original Kalamkari Fabric is not challenging to identify because of its natural dye. The dye of the original fabric is exclusive due to its earthy dyes, which cannot be obtained from chemical dyes.

The perfectly printed fabrics are not original Kalamkari which may have irregularities. They have prints or paints of imperfections as the strokes are uneven and have smudged paint.

Another way of identifying the original Kalamkari Fabric is its smell. The original Kalamkari fabric is made of cow milk and resin; therefore, it smells like milk.
The block-printed fabric can be identified if the print is a little fuzzy or blurry, whereas a Digitally printed Kalamkari will be neat and perfect. Now you know what to look for while purchasing originally made Kalamkari fabric.

Summing up:

In this blog, we looked at the history and uniqueness of Kalamkari Fabric. The two types of Kalamkari Fabrics and how they vary from each other help you understand the fabric in detail, which allows you to shop for the right fabric.

You can check out The Fabric Depot for 100% authentic KalamkarI Fabric, as it has spots and stains and is charmingly imperfect. The artwork of the craftsman can be seen in the Fabric Depot’s Kalamkari work.