Kalamkari is from ‘Kalam’ (pen) and ‘Kari’ (craftsmanship), words taken from the Persian for the art of hand painting done on fabrics with the use of a pen and extended to include hand block printing. There are two schools of art that developed Kalamkari initially in India and from individual origins.
Srikalahasti style that used the pen for drawing and filling in the colours, and with a strong influence of Hindu culture that specifically focused on religious subjects and scenes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata in its paintings.
The Machilipatnam style that came with an Islamic slant, had subjects of paintings mostly depicting flora and fauna, with floral designs as a backdrop on the fabric.
Both styles that have popularised Kalamkari have one thing in common – the depictions are fine and neatly drawn, there is extensive use of organic colours which are fast, there is no dilution in the skill and quality over the years. Today’s Kalamkari has both styles merged into one with different facets within the art.
Kalamkari on traditional fabrics like the salwar kamiz and saree showcases the simplicity, elaborate themes, sharp detailing and attractive motifs in a host of bright and pleasing hues. Kalamkari comes off beautifully on a whole lot of fabrics like silk, cotton, sico art silks such as georgette, chiffon, Supernet, crepe silk and others.
With vegetable dyes being used, colours are fast and long lasting. Motifs with trees, creepers, flowers, leaves, birds are popular subjects.
Gloss on the fabric comes from the traditional use of some natural substances such as myrobalan, cow’s milk, cow dung, seeds, plants and crushed flowers in the paintings. The etching of lines and applying of colour is done with a finely sharpened short bamboo piece which reflects the devotion and skill of the ethnic craftsmen to bring about such exquisite masterpieces despite the limited resources.
A time-consuming and arduous task, that involves patience and dedication, it is the sharpness of the lines, the fine details and the picturesque outcome that make this ethnic effort worth its while.
Kalamkari shalwar kameez in the printed variety have block prints featuring floral designs and geometrical patterns arranged in designer fashion. Modern abstract designs have also been included in recent times to resounding applause from the market.
Ethnic art is like any other art. It is however the toil and the effort in producing these exceptional works of detail and flawlessness despite the limited resources available, that truly give it its value.
There are fine pure Kalamkari handloom cotton shalwar kamiz with multi-colour Kalamkari, where multi-colour borders and fancy designs on the dupatta go well with the central design. You have the floral adorned salwar kameez with attractive hand painted bootis or lovely embroidery all over. Then you have the veg. dyed shalwar kamiz in silk and cotton that have finely marked lines and accentuate the effect of the geometrical patterns.
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#3-4-360, Vajra Complex,
General Bazar (Tobacco Bazar),
Website : www.unnatisilks.com