Just received my first shipment of beautiful Kalmkari Napkins from India!So being the textile nerd I am - I decided I must share a bit of my research on the ancient, but not lost, art of block printing. Kalamkari originated thousands of years ago in India. It literally means pen (kalam) work (kari) . The artists traditionally use a date or palm stick pointed at one end, with a small amount of animal hair attached to the pointed end to serve as the fine tip brush.
The dyes are obtained by extracting colors form parts of plants - roots leaves along with mineral salts of iron, tin, copper, alum, etc., which are used as mordants.
The outlines are hand painted, before the gradual and vigorous process of dye and resist begins. Cotton cloth is immersed in the mixture of milk and flowers paste. After soaking it is then boiled for hours to remove any other impurity. In the next process, it is dried under the sun for 2 to 3 hours. Finally the artist is ready to start drawing the basic outlines, with the colors to be filled in last. The colors change depending on the treatment of cloth and quality of the mordant. Each step in the process is done painstakingly, and with perfection..
You can purchase these gorgeous, soft and reusable cotton napkins if you like at https://www.hopeandtwine.com/products/rustic-block-print-napkin-set
The special effect here is that the finished products are mellow and un-fussy. Bright colors are used, but the finish is decidedly muted. The fabric looks finer and finer with further washing, with the designs standing out even better against the background.
As an (extremely) amateur block printer- I am longing to go to India and check out how it is done from the people who do it best!
Thanks to Eternal Threads & their Co-op initiative in India for making these beautiful pieces, -With the income the women earn they have been able to send their children to school, have gained access to nutritious food and healthcare, bought cooking stoves and water buffalo (!)