1. Brush Making (Kalam)
Kalam or kalamkari pen is basically prepared with a small bamboo stick, one end of the stick is sharpened until required, pure cotton cloth is rolled on, near the sharpened edge of the stick and then tied tightly in a crisscross pattern with a cotton thread making sure that the cotton cloth stays in the exact position. Cotton is used because it acts as an ink pillar and which absorbs colour and makes it easier for the artisan to draw on the fabric. Instead of a cotton cloth many times a lump of cotton is also tied to the bamboo stick allowing more absorption of colour mostly this is used in the inside areas of the fabric which has to be painted. Flow of ink depends upon the material used in kalam, for outlines, a cotton cloth (ex: - bandage cloth) is used for precision drawing. The thickness of the tip actually determines the fineness of the line drawn.
2. Natural Vegetable Dyes
Natural vegetable dyes were discovered by our ancestors through a lot of effort and persistence, natural dyes can be found in various different places. There are around 500 colour giving plants, but only a few are found in abundance which are cost effective and produce good colour which can be used in textile industries.
Extraction of Colour I
• Local Name: Karakha pindhi / Kadukka pinju
• Botanical Name: Terminlia chebula
• Fruit Name: Mayrabolan
• Colour Obtained: Light yellow
Mayrabolan is actually a fruit which can be obtained from Terminalia chebula, this basically forms a pale yellow / greenish yellow colour. It also acts as a natural mordant and is used in textiles. This particular fruit is used because of the high tannin content in it. Mayrabolan is available in powdered form which costs around ₹90 per kg. This treatment also helps the fabric to absorb required metallic mordant.
Extraction of Colour II
• Local Name: Kassim kaaram
• Colour obtained: Black
Kasim kaaram (Black colour) is obtained from jaggery, rusted iron filings and water. Initially these materials are immersed in water and allowed to settle for around 15 to 20 days. The reaction of molasses and iron fillings is called ferrous acetate. This solution when drawn on mayrabolam treated cloth turns into a permanent black because of the reaction between ferrous acetate and tannin, it is later stored in a drum or a closed container.
Extraction of Colour III
• Common Name: Natural Indigo, blue, indigo
• Botanical Name: Indigofera tinctoria
• Colour obtained: Blue
Indigo blue is said to be one of the most ancient natural dyes which is obtained from Indigo leaves which is mixed with locally available sand, near river banks and allowed to settle and then filtered. The filtered solution is mixed with indigo leaves and left for around 21 days, if the process is done in less or more amount of time the output of indigo blue is either dull or too dark. So 21 days is the appropriate time for the right shade of Indigo blue.
Extraction of Colour IV
• Common Name: Pomegranate
• Locally Called: Karakha Pooh
• Botanical Name: Punica granatum
• Colour obtained: Golden yellow
The upper part of the fruit pomegranate also called persistent calyx which is finely powdered and mixed with water, stirred and then boiled to high temperatures where it becomes a fine paste and it’s then stored. After a week’s time, fine paste is then squashed by hand and yellow colour is produced, it is also available in the market for ₹700 per kg.
Extraction of Colour V
• Common Name: Catechu
• Locally Called : Suryada chakka
• Botanical Name: Accacia catechu
• Colour obtained: Rosemary
Catechu mixed with alum is initially soaked in water for a minimum of 3 days and till it becomes soft, it is boiled until a point and then stored for 8-10 days which is then ready to be used. Price of catechu is around ₹900 – 1000 per kg which is also available in kalamkari related stores.
Extraction Colour VI
• Colour Obtained: Gray
Colour is obtained when Alum is mixed with water for a ratio of 1:4.
Extraction of Colour VII
• Common Name: Algerian
• Colour obtained: Red
Algerian is a chemical which is readily available in the market for ₹1,800 per kg, in olden days the seeds of pomegranate, alum and bark of mango tree was mixed to make red colour. Kalamkari artists usually prefer buying it from the local market because it is expensive and it is not easily available.
The colour green is obtained by mixing two colours which are yellow and blue which results in darker shade of green, Yellow and black forms a more lighter shade of green.
There are various other colours, which are used at times on customer’s requests or orders, some of the colours are also pigment based.