“Modern Traditions – NatuReally Handlooms’ special show presents Indian craftsmanship

Kalamkari is an exquisite and ancient craft of handpainting and printing on fabric.

Kalamkari is an exquisite and ancient craft of handpainting and printing on fabric.

A variety of printing techniques on handwoven fabrics are prevalent in India since ancient times. This art form has been very effectively used for generations to express various traditions and social customs. Use of vibrant colors and simple designs make hand-printed fabrics look ethnic and vivacious. In the foyer of Hall 10.3, the special presentation “Modern Traditions – NatuReally Handlooms” gives an insight into the traditional craftsmanship of the textile nation India.

Block printing is widespread across Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad, Machilipatnam, Pedana), Rajasthan (Sanganer, Bagru, Barmer, Pali), Uttar Pradesh (Varanasi), Gujrat (Dhamadka), Madhya Pradesh (Bagh, Ujjain), Maharashtra (Mumbai), West Bengal (Kolkota), Tamil Nadu (Chennai) and Karnataka (Bangalore). In this technique, dye or ink is offset from the original block made in wood onto the fabric. The process of applying color on the block and transferring onto the fabric is done entirely by hand by highly skilled craftsmen. The ideal season for block printing is the dry months. Excellence is achieved only if the block is freshly and perfectly chiseled. In terms of the type of yarn, dyes and weaving techniques used, block printing process follows strict discipline at every stage as defined by the nakshabandhas (graph-paper designers).

Kalamkari: ancient craft of handpainting
Kalamkari is an exquisite and ancient craft of handpainting and printing on fabric. It derives its name from Kalam (pen) and Kari (work), literally translating into penmanship. The art combined handpainting as well as block printing with vegetable dyes and has existed for over 3000 years as they passed on within the families from generation to generation. The craft finds its origins in Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh. Kalamkari knew its apogee in the wealthy Golconda Sultanate, Hyderabad in the middle ages. The art was practiced by many families in Andhra Pradesh, and is still found in many parts of the state today. Kalamkari designs can be found in home furnishings and apparel today. The important centres are Machilipatnam and Srikalahasti (Andhra Pradesh), while replications are created in several parts of India.

The cotton fabric is first impregnated in a mixture of cowdung solution and myrabalam to give a bleaching effect and glossiness. A black color solution is prepared over a period of one month using fermented jiggery and rusted iron pieces, which becomes the outline ink for the design. The colors filled in are all vegetable dyes prepared with different natural ingredients such as alum and pomegranate. The fabric is washed in flowing rivers after application of each color to test color bleeding with each fabric undergoing up to 20 washes.

Find out about Kalamkari and noble crafts and visit the special presentation “Modern Traditions – NatuReally Handlooms” in the foyer of Hall 10.3 at Heimtextil 2014.

Stefan Jakob

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