Kalamkari is the earliest and one of the most complex using vegetable dyes and minerals. The Literal translation of the word kalamkari is Pen Craft. The word is derived from the Persian words kalam (pen) and kari (craftsmanship), meaning drawing with a pen.
The intricate pictures are drawn with kalam or bamboo reed using natural dyes. The antiquity of natural dyed fabrics in India dates back to the pre-Christian era.
The craft made at Pedana near by Machilipatnam in Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh, evolved with patronage of the Mughals and the Golconda sultanate. The art has certainly received centuries of appreciation and patronage from people around the world. According to some sources the name Kalamkari was most likely derived from the trade relationships between Persian and Indian merchants as early as 10th century CE. Portuguese merchants called this kind of fabric printing “Pintado”. The Dutch called it “Sitz” and the British found it easy to call this textile printing technique “Chintz”. The name Kalamkari is however universally accepted and enjoyed by the fabric lovers since many decades.
Kalamkari printing includes multiple steps of dying the fabric with natural vegetable dyes. The fabric that is used to make Kalamkari patterns is 100% cotton and its preparation is fully organic. Usually cotton or pure silk fabric is a preferred choice for making Kalamkari patterns.
People all over the world have understood the harmful effects of dangerous chemical dyes and developing the taste for naturally dyed fabrics. Kalamkari painting is the best specimen of natural color artwork. The artists use natural colors extracted from bark, flower and roots of plants. No chemical dyes are used for Kalamkari colors. It is quite amazing to know that the red color is obtained by using the Indian madder root, yellow from the pomegranate seed or even mango bark, and black from myrobalam fruit. There is a certain kind of hypnotism effect of this art on every onlooker.
The craftsmen of Machalipatnam produce beautiful block printed materials Unlike other centers of Kalamkari, the craftsmen of Srikalahasti still use the ancient techniques of dyeing, which they had inherited from the earliest days. The wall hangings drawn free hands are the most popular creations of the Craftsmen. The mythology is the main source of themes. The panels are drawn from the Ramayana, Mahabharatha and from Bhagavata. Normally a big story panel is segmented into many smaller sections.
Some of the craftsmen in Srikalahasti also produce beautiful textile materials drawn free hand.
Srikalahasti is a small temple town situated in the Chitoor district of Andhra Pradesh. (100 kms. from Chennai). It is one of the famous Centers of pilgrimage in South India.
The climatic conditions, availability of dye stuffs and clean flowing water from the river Svarnamukhi makes Srikalahasti an ideal place for Kalamkari production. Red color is obtained from Indian madder, Yellow from myrobalan flower, Blue from Indigo plant and Black from Iron fillings and sugar molasses. In spite of many repercussions of the modern age, the skillful artists of Srikalahasti continue and maintain their own identity and workmanship.
The Pen or Kalam is used to draw lines on the cloth. A bamboo reed is taken and a woollen rag is rolled over it. Latter it is entwined by a cotton thread. (See figure-1). The tip of this instrument should be thin and sharp. The skin of the bamboo is retained on one of the side, which gives the reed strength and longer life to the tip.
When this instrument is dipped in to the dye solution, the woolen ball absorbs the dye by capillary actions. The artist holds the loaded kalam in upright position gently presses the woolen ball and drags it on the cloth. The dye, which comes out of the woolen ball, passing through the bamboo point, reaches the cloth.
The kalams that have broad tips are used to draw thicker lines and also for filling flat areas on the cloth.
Bagru, Sanganer, Palampur and Faizabad are few centres in northern India where Kalamkari is practiced. Since the fabric used in this style of printing is pure cotton and the dyes are purely natural with a beautiful striking yet subtle color combination, the kalamkari printed fabrics become an ideal raw material for carving out summer apparels.
We at The Saffron Saga, have handpicked the kalamkari prints from Andhra Pradesh that are traditional yet most suitable for contemporary as well as traditional women ’s wear. We have uniquely styled our women’s apparels in kalamkari giving it a twist of fusion. We have fused the beautiful kalamkari Sarees with the Tribal Warli Design Motifs Embroidery.
Our Kalamkari kurtas too are with made with slant of fusion, wherein Warli Tribal Motifs Embroidery of Madhya Pradesh is used to enhance the beauty of these dresses.
We at www.thesaffronsaga.com have not limited ourselves to designing just the traditional wear when it comes to using the traditional kalamkari prints. Taking a step further, we have carved out stylish designs in women’s western dresses, palazzos and culottes using the kalamkari prints.
Our customers, who are extremely cautious of the environmental hazards being created by the excessive usage of synthetic dyes and fabrics, have welcomed our endeavor and mission in showcasing the traditional craftsmanship of Indian Fabric Printers, who were somewhere getting lost in the oblivion and promoting their talent on a worldwide platform at www.thesaffronsaga.com . The natural dyes and fabrics that we use in creating the most stylish, contemporary and classy outfits are not just skin friendly but environment friendly too. Our rich yet affordable apparels are specially designed with care to give utmost comfort and make our customers stand out fashionably.
Here is an elaborate video exhibiting the kalamkari technique of printing