KALAMKARI is an exquisite ancient craft of hand painting as well as block printing produced using 100% natural dyes. It is an art which has evolved over the last 3000 years and is known for its motifs and richness of colour.
There is something almost magical about using truly organic ingredients that have been sourced from the natural environment to make dyes. Obtained from renewable sources that can be harnessed without imposing harm to the environment, these dyes are the defining language of a conscious approach to garment making. Kalamkari art primarily uses earthy colours like indigo, mustard, rust, black and green.
Harmless, natural dyes which are extracted from bark, flower and root are applied along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc, which are used as mordants
For instance, craftsmen extract black colour by blending jaggery, water and iron fillings which they essentially use for outlining the sketches. While mustard or yellow is derived by boiling pomegranate peels, red hues are created from bark of madder . Likewise, blue is obtained from indigo and green is derived by mixing yellow and blue together.
There are two distinctive styles of Kalamkari art prevalent in Andhra Pradesh - the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The difference between the styles is that the Srikalahasti paintings are free hand-drawn with pen- KALAM- whereas the Machilipatnam style uses blockprinting procedures. The Kalahasti tradition which developed in the temple region mostly concentrates on themes from Hindu mythology, epics (Ramayana, Mahabharatha), images of Gods and heroes
Owing to Muslim rule in Golconda, the Machilipatnam Kalamkari was influenced by Persian motifs & designs, widely adapted to suit their taste. The outlines and main features are achieved using wooden blocks which are carved painstakingly in desired motifs by expert carvers. After printing is achieved using the blocks, finer details are filled in using the pen.
This art involves 23 tedious steps from natural process of bleaching the fabric, softening it, sun drying, preparing natural dyes, hand painting, to the processes of air drying and washing, the entire procedure truly requires precision and an eye for detailing.