Showcase The eco-friendly fabric combines elegance and comfort

Dastkar Andhra’s involvement with cotton handloom weavers in remote rural areas of Andhra Pradesh is an inspirational story of our times. It’s a story of amazing creative innovation in weave texture and design - and of fostering hope and regular employment for thousands of handloom weavers in the marginalised weaving communities of East Godavari, Srikakulam, Guntur and Krishna district. Equally amazing are the cool, high on style quotient and design savvy saris, stoles , salwar sets, dupattas, fabric and curtains which come from these distant rural locations, making a Dastkar product a synonym for elegance, comfortable chic and eco-friendly properties.

How was this mini revolution in textiles achieved? Dastkar Andhra Marketing Association (DAMA) worked with weavers through cooperatives in their area to provide designs, patterns, innovative weaves, colour combinations and technical inputs such as natural dyeing, etc. The finished products such as saris, dupattas and stoles are bought by DAMA and marketed through them in the retail segment and at exhibitions and sales. Every year special ‘Collections’ are brought out in saris and fabric focussing on innovation and design. “We are committed to working with the broad design sensibilities and specific traditional skills of each area” says Latha Timuru , head of DAMAs design cell.

Kalamkari work

DA’s ‘Summer Collection’ is on view at CP Arts Centre. The Collection is about singing spring colours, a range of indigo fabrics with the yarn dyed through the traditional vat process, natural and Azo dyed fabrics, dented, textured, stripes and see through checks, thick textured fabrics, twill weaves, shot colours, a no border look on a range of handlooms and khadi saris, dupattas, salwar sets. Special buttidar saris and innovative borders have been woven for the collection. Pre-shrunk garments for men and women are on offer along with the focus on lyrical Kalamkari motifs in vegetable dyes.

“We’ve revived Kalamkari hand block printing on handloom and khadi. The inspirations for our special block prints are from Machilipatnam Kalamkari block printing which is done only in Pedana in Andhra Pradesh. We send our developed and specially prepared design graphs to the traditional block makers and printers of Pedana,” says Latha.

Block maker Sambiah and printer Subramaniam show their skills at the exhibition site. Sambiah demonstrates the making of the teak blocks on which he expertly pins the design paper and works at translating them into the block by engraving, scooping, etc. through a sharp kalam. A chrysanthemum resting in a field of tendrils now appears to be used for outlining on the fabric. Additional blocks are made for filling in and detailing. Subramaniam now takes the story further by printing with the block on a fabric which has already been prepared through a detailed process. As he dips the block in the black colour and places it on the fabric the outline appears. Then the colour details of each petal, flower and leaf are printed on the chrysanthemum motif. Once the motifs are done the cloth is dipped in the already developed colour to achieve the background- and the poetry of a kalamkari fabric emerges carrying with it the fragrance of colours derived from flower, leaf, jiggery, and turmeric.

Dastkar Andhra’s Summer Collection of cotton handlooms and textures is on view at C.P. Ramaswami Iyer Foundation, Big Hall, Alwarpet, Eldams Road, Chennai till tomorrow, February 15.