New prints on the block

New prints on the block

When tradition blends with modernity in the right manner, the result comes as a fresh breath of air.  

The traditional art of ‘Kalamkari’ is undergoing  changes like never before. Although, this form of art is usually done on saris and ‘salwar kameezes’, designers today are fusing it with western elements.

So now you have jackets, palazzos and short skirts in ‘Kalamkari’ designs with motifs such as  birds, trees, flowers, leaves, scenes from Hindu mythology, figures of deities along with rich border embellishments.

While the outlines and main features are done using hand-carved blocks, the finer details are incorporated later using a pen.

What’s more, ‘Kalamkari’ designs are now finding a space in accessories like handbags and purses too.

In the City, Anita Reddy spearheads, Dwarka (Development of Weavers and Rural Artisan in Kalamkari Art) which works for the revival of hand-painted ‘Kalamkari’ art and the empowerment of rural artisans. The organisation directly works with 130 artists.

 Edward, coordinator of ‘Dwarka’ explains, “The printing is done using wooden blocks and vegetable colours. The printed cloth is washed in flowing water so that the prints do not get smudged.  After this, the cloth is dried in sun. It is then boiled in a copper vessel using leaves, barks, and dry flowers etc giving different colours or shades. It  needs to be dried again. And then a second printing is done where colours  pinks, yellows, greens and blues are printed in this process.”

 Srijata Bhatnagar, founder of the ‘Ethnic Shack’, an online store, attempts to motivate the rural artists to try out an art in a completely different canvas than they are used to.

Srijata says what is unique about ‘Kalamkari’ is its strokes, motifs and the way it is presented on a canvas. “The best part is that it only uses natural dyes  which generally is seen as dull and boring, but with ‘Kalamkari’ designs, colours and motifs, the entire theme is presented.

It is a story written on fabrics.” In spite of ‘Kalamkari’ being a traditional art form, young designers too have begun to fancy it. Kalamkari’ maxi skirts, gowns, palazzos, harem pants, jackets and even ‘Kalamkari’ tank tops are trending. Meghana A, a professional, says, “Fashion is one of the easiest ways to be introduced to Indian heritage. ‘Kalamkari’ motifs are rich in designs. It is amazing to actually wear the Indian heritage.”

Designer Neeta Lulla’s ‘Kalamkari’ bridal collection of 2013 was a mixture of free-hand design which was simple yet sophisticated. Her collection made a quintessential statement with its artistic quality and individuality with motifs of floral designs in each of the pieces.

Meanwhile, stylist from Myntra, Carlton DeSouza, says 'Kalamkari' can easily be infused in a Western attire as it involves a lot of detailing in prints which should be paired with strong and plain colours.

He says, ‘“Kalamkari’ is rich in its designs and print which technically should be paired with a single colour. If the silhouette is a ‘Kalamkari’ kurta, it is best to team it up with a legging or Patiala from one of the colours of the kurta.”

“A ‘Kalamkari’ jacket can be worn on a plain shirt and jeans which brings out a complete look. Remember to keep everything else simple so that the print stands out, as there is a lot happening in ‘Kalamkari’ already,” he adds.

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