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The Kalamkari art in general:
The tools used in Kalamkari

- Charcoal Pencil Twigs from nearby tamarind trees are collected and burnt. The fire is frequently prodded to make sure that all the pieces are evenly burnt. When the twigs are half burnt and blackened, the fire is extinguished with sand. This process is done to cool the twigs. Half-burnt twigs form the charcoal pencil. The charcoal drawing provides the basic layout in the Kalamkari painting.

- Two types of pens are used. They are made with bamboo sticks. One is a sharp-tipped one for outline drawing; the other has a broad, round tip and is used for filling in with mordant. The broad-tipped kalam has a fibrous edge.

- Myrobalan is soaked overnight in water, and then ground on a grinding stone to make a thick paste.

- For painting, the craftsmen use thick unbleached cloth called gadha.

The raw materials for Kalamkari

1. Gadha Cloth 2. Indigo Blue 3. Alzarin 4. Anar 5. Rubia Cordifolia Linn (Chavalkudi) 6. Pobbaku 7. Ventilago Madraspatana Gartan (Surudu Chekka) 8. Myrobalan In addition rusted iron, tamarind twigs, alum, cow’s milk and cowdung are also used.

The Kalamkari Process

The process involves washing, rinsing, soaking and bleaching the fabric and applying mordants and dyes using natural substances like indigo (blue), madder (red), mango bark (yellow) and palm sugar (black). Painting on the fabric is done with a kalam, charcoal and myrobalan paste.

- In a large vessel, a handful of myrobalan paste is mixed with one liter of water and fresh buffalo milk.

- The washed cloth is folded loosely to permit easy permeation of myrobalan. The cloth is slowly dipped into the solution. It is then opened up part by part and soaked again and pressed down with the hands. This type of pressing helps greater absorption.

- Then the cloth is taken out, wrung and opened out. The wringing helps remove the thicker particles of myrobalan.

- The process of opening, folding and twisting the cloth is repeated again, but this time the twisting is done in the opposite direction. The squeezing motion helps to spread the fat content of the buffalo milk. The fat holds the colors on the surface and prevents color from spreading. This effect on the fabric lasts for one month.

- Once all the pieces of cloth have been processed, they are spread out to dry in the sunlight.

- Once they are thoroughly dry, they are folded and pressed. Straight lines are drawn in charcoal along the creases formed. This defines the decorative panel within which the main theme will be drawn. The charcoal stick is held between the thumb and forefinger. The other fingers run along the creases, providing movement and support.