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Explore the Intricacte Techniques of Kalamkari

The process of creating a Kalamkari saree is extremely slow and tedious. The intricacies involved are mind-boggling.

Hand painting a Kalamkari
Hand painting a Kalamkari

Tools used for Kalamkari
Tools used for Kalamkari

The procedure involves resist dyeing of the fabric, followed by hand printing. The fabric undergoes several treatments both before and after the process of hand painting. The colours change, depending on the quality of mordant used and the harshness of the treatments involved.

People working on a Kalamkari fabric
People working on a Kalamkari fabric

The most common method of fabric preparation involves the initial bleaching of the fabric. Ripe fruits are then used on the fabric, along with milk, in order to avoid the possibility of colour bleeding. A solution containing ion acetate is then filled into the fabric with the use of a pen or a brush. Wooden blocks may also be used.

Details of a basic motif
Details of a basic motif

There are two types of pens, or kalams, which are put to use in the creation of Kalamkari. One has a round flat edge for filling in large blotches of colour. The other kalam consists of a sharp pointed tip for filling in the outlines and the intricate details in the figurines. It is necessary to use kalams, since the figures of several gods and goddesses cannot be competed with mere blocks. These kalams are still being used in their original form, despite the passage of several centuries. The kalams ensure the artistic integrity of genuine Kalamkari.

Intricate motif of Lord Ganesha
Intricate motif of Lord Ganesha

The areas of fabric that have to be coloured red are coated with alum solution, which acts as a mordant. Solid red dyed fabric is obtained by boiling the colouring matter with the fabric. Blue is obtained by leaving the required portions of the fabric untouched and covering the rest of the fabric with a layer of wax. This fabric is then immersed in a solution of indigo in order to obtain the requisite blue colour. The fabric is finally readied by vigorous washing of the cloth under running water in order to remove any traces of the mordants.

Images: Gujarat Kalamkari, Flickr, The Hindu, Megacreampie, Andhra Kalamkari