IRAN ART EXHIBITION: WHAT IS KALAMKARI OR GHALAMKARI ART?
Kalamkari is a type of hand printed or hand block printed cotton textile. Kalamkari refers to the ancient style of hand painting that is done with a tamarind pen, using natural dyes. Kalamkari is composed of two words, kalam, literally meaning pen and kari refers to craftsmanship which is derived from a Persian word. Motifs drawn in this ancient art of Kalamkari, include flowers, peacock, paisleys and also divine characters from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Kalamkari was born out of an art of storytelling.
Kalamkari designs and colors are very bright and vibrant. These artisans came up with innovative ideas highly influenced by Persian motifs, Hindu mythology and religious symbols; that gave an identification to Kalamkari designs. Kalamkari designs are drawn generally by free hand using a pen and further the filling is also completely done with hand. The art of Kalamkari is generally done using earthy colors like mustard, indigo, rust, green and black.
Ghalamkar fabric is a type of textile print, with patterns typical of Iranian fabric. The fabric is printed with geometric patterned wooden stamps. The stamps are mostly made of pear wood which has greater flexibility and density for carving and the usefulness of a long life. In this workshop, there are hundreds of different patterns composed of arabesque designs, flora and fauna designs, geometric designs, pre-Islamic designs, hunting scenes, polo games, Persian poems, Armenian and Hebrew inscriptions. The Ghalamkar technique is also known as Kalamkari in India, which is basically a type of hand-painted or block-painted cotton fabric. Esfahan (Iran) is one of the most important producing cities in the world.
A tapestry can be printed depending on its density and size, between hundreds and tens of thousands of times. For example, a six-person tablecloth (2 meters by 1,4 meters) should be printed about 580 times in a normal job, up to 4000 times if it was an elegant work.
After having finished printing they are then, in the first phase, steamed for at least an hour in order to stabilize their designs; subsequently they are brought to the river bed and kept in some basins to be well immersed in a large quantity of running water. The pieces are piled up in large copper vessels containing stabilizers (liquids) and are finally boiled. At the same time, they are knocked over by some wooden sticks and washed again in the Zayandeh, the river that runs through the city of Esfahan, and then scattered on its banks to dry them.
IRAN ART EXHIBITION: Ghalamkari, a kind of traditional print that is applied to textile, is one of many handicrafts of Isfahan. The handicrafts of Isfahan are so popular and prosperous that this city was chosen as the World Crafts City by the World Council of Handicrafts in 2015. Ghalamkari prints, also known as “Chit Sazi”, is one the artistic products with a very ancient history. Some believe this craft to be originated from India. In the past, to apply the prints on a traditional textiles such as cotton, silk, linen, they were painted using brush and herbal paints. Because of the skillful and elaborate work of the masters, this crafts was named Kalamkar or “Ghalamkar” which refers to the word “Ghalam” with the meaning of brush in the Persian language. Gradually, wooden print blocks replaced the painting process because they were less time- consuming and easier to use. The oldest blocks found in Iran were carved out of stone and belong to the 11th and 12th centuries. But the wooden blocks were brought to Iran by Mongols the in late 14th century, and ever since then designing and making wooden blocks have become the first and maybe a most important step for making Kalamkari prints. To make the block, first the intended design is drawn on a sketch paper with graphite, then based on the color it is separated to single-color layers. Then each design is applied and later carved to blocks of Pear or Hawthorn wood. Most commonly four blocks are created for each design and the textiles usually have four colors. Out of the colors, first the black layer is printed, then red, blue and yellow is applied in last. Sometimes green and brown are used as complementary colors.
The patterns of animals, foliage, arabesque, monuments of Isfahan, the story of Leyla and Majnoon and more miniature paintings are used. Safavid dynasty is known to be the flourishing period of Kalamkari. During that time Kalamkari textiles were prospering so much that, only in Isfahan, four great bazaars and also multiple caravanserais were busy for making this craft and they sent their products to cities all over the country.