Maiwa’s kalamkari bedding is block printed by hand on 100% organic cotton using natural dyes. Floral motifs and geometric embellishments invoke the Persian influence found in traditional kalamkari. The bedding is a sumptuous combination of line and colour.
Bagh block printed bedding adds character and depth to any room. The patterning is a beautiful balance of figure and ground that allows motif and colour to sing together. Printed on 100% organic cotton using natural dyes and traditional techniques.
What is Kalamkari?
The mordant-dye technique resulted in brilliant, fast colours that could withstand washing. These were exported from the port of Marsulipatnam (on the east coast of India) where, between 1600 and 1800 they formed the basis for one of the largest international trades in textiles ever known. To increase production, carved wooden blocks replaced pens. In the European markets both printed and painted cottons became known as “Chintz." Today the term refers to almost any textile with floral patterning, but at the time "chintz" denoted a cotton cloth, usually with a white ground, printed or painted with natural dyes.
The European market was not the first, however, the port of Marsulipatnam previously exported kalamkaris to the markets of Safavid Persia. The Persian influence has remained in the floral borders, motifs, and geometric design of the patterning.
Today Marsilaputnam is still a centre of kalamkari block print production. The original natural dye knowledge is still applied and the results are just as beautiful as they were centuries ago. First the cloth is bleached by "dunging" — a treatment with buffalo or goat dung after which the cloth is dried in the sun for a few days. The cloth is mordanted with myrobalan, a tannin bearing nut which grows nearby. Black outlines are printed with an iron solution and areas that will be red are printed with an alum mordant. The various colours are achieved through printing resists, mordants, and then immersion dyeing with different dyes. When using wooden blocks to print, gum is mixed with whatever substance is to be delivered onto the cloth.
Maiwa is dedicated to keeping the art of kalamkari alive. We carry kalamkari bedding, pillows, cushion covers, and we use kalamkari in our clothing designs.
What are Bagh Block Prints?
The graphic impact of a Bagh block print is due to the dramatic use of of red and black; a style which originates with the Bhil and Bhilala cultures residing in Madhya Pradesh, India. The printers of Bagh are Khatris who migrated south from Rajasthan during the Mughal incursions. They remained to take advantage of the high copper content of the Baghini river. Today, a few small studios still follow a traditional block printing process.
Light and medium weight cotton cloth is scoured and prepared with a complex mixture containing tannin. The cloth is printed with mordants, but as the mordants themselves give no colour during application, a bright pink dye is added - traditionally from the dhawda (flame of the forest) flower. This dye permits the artisans to check registration of the patterns and align overprints. Areas which appear pink during this initial stage will appear deep red when the cloth is finished.
Traditional dye methods include the fermentation of iron-water to give a black colour. Horseshoes and other scrap iron is added to a jaggery-water mixture in a process which can last between fifteen and thirty-five days. The distinctive blocks are carved from hardwood and can print thousands of impressions before needing to be recut.
Washing during the various stages of the printing process is still done by the riverside. Lengths of unfinished cloth with the distinctive pink colour are evidence of traditional artisans at work.
Maiwa works with Bagh craftspeople using traditional block printing techniques. The bold patterns are a proud and dramatic statement of the cultural heritage of this area.