Kalamkari is a well known fabric these days and a very popular fabric for ethnic wear. An art form which has seen a resurgence in recent years, due to a focused effort by textile aficionados and fashion designers alike.
Kalamkari is an ancient style of hand painting done on cotton or silk fabric with a tamarind pen, using natural dyes. Kalamkari is derived from a Persian word, ‘kalam‘ means pen and ‘kari‘ is for craftsmanship. All in all, this art involves 23 steps of dyeing, bleaching, hand painting, block printing, starching, cleaning and more.
In India, there are two unique styles of kalamkari art, they are,the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti style of Kalamkari, is a completely hand done art. The pen is used for freehand drawing and for filling in of colour. Machilipatnam style is vegetable-dyed block-painting of a fabric .Inthis style , Kalamkari designs are printed with hand carved blocks with intricate details and printed by hand. Srikalahasti style includes designs inspired from Hindu mythology, descriptions of scenes and incidents from the epics.
Kalamkari designs are also segregated based on the states where they are created. Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh are two main states where two different types of Kalamkari designs are created. Andhra Pradesh draws its design inspiration from forts, palaces and temples, along with animal and bird motifs; while Gujarat borrows its Kalamkari design inspiration from mythological characters.
In recent times, due to its revived patronage, a variety of fabrics are seen with Kalamkari prints. Printing is much easier than handwork and also more efficient and inexpensive.It is now even easy to buy Kalamkari duppattas and blouse pieces online, making these popular among Indian women.
Kalamkari paintings have a thriving market in and outside of India. It is now as easy to buy kalamkari fabrics online as it is at craft fairs, heritage stores and mainstream fabric retail. Today, the kalamkari art for sale is available in leading exhibitions that display and promote Indian handicrafts.
In contemporary times, the handwork is replaced by digital printing as is true for many traditional techniques.
Kalamkari is an intricate art form and requires a tedious technique in its making; because of which the art of Kalamkari was fast becoming lost.
With the emergence of high quality machine looms and acceptance for printed textiles; Kalamkari art came on the verge of extinction. However, printed Kalamkari is a new craze among the current generation, as it is a combination of traditional and modern trends.
Several fashion designers beautifully portrayed kalamkari sarees on fashion runways and created a revival movement. Bringing in awareness about this lost tradition and making its growth easier for the contemporary market.
The use of natural fabrics and dyes makes it perfect in these times where sustainability is such a big concern for our environment. It is also part of the movement, to buy local and support craftsmen and artisans. Contemporary styles in Kalamkari can be seen across runways and stores, in apparel, accessories and furnishings.