Textile printing is a relatively manual, finely tuned art form with processes that require a high level of technical skill. It involves the application of color(s) to a textile material according to a particular design or pattern, usually made with stencils. Unlike the European origins of printing that mainly specialized in embroidery with a limited opulent color palette, Indian methods were also handmade but incorporated numerous amounts of other styles and techniques such as tie and dye, screen and block prints.
Printing on fabric in India can be dated as far back as 3000 years ago, though there are some claims that it dates back to the Indus Valley civilization along with the first signs of looming materials to create cloth. India’s innovation and skill in cloth printing is considered a highly distinctive art. It is reputed worldwide, as a large percentage of its global exports consist of this craft till date. Locally as well, the cultural significance of looming and printing is highly valued and majorly sought after by all fashion conscious women.
Within the regions of India, the variety of printing-designs on fabric is unique to their respective historical and geographical cultures. Different states of India produce work that is reflective of its landscape, beliefs and sense of aesthetics in the kinds of methods, colors and motifs they use.
With the likes of Bandhej and Bandhani from Rajasthan; Patola from Gujrat, Ikat from Orissa; Batik from West Bengal, Bhagalpuri from Bihar and so much more, many of these states and specifically villages within them have come to specialize in particular styles. This is simply because of the resources that have been available to them in their surroundings.
The renowned Kalamkari prints from the South Eastern state of Andhra Pradesh has intricate patterns usually hand painted with a thin brush called the Srikalahasti technique. However a second variation called Masulipatnam uses a process similar to block printing procedures. Commonly used for saree printing, both the technical variations require a hefty amount of pre and post preparation as a single piece of cloth can take a few weeks to produce.
The initial groundwork required for this, mostly on mill-made cotton fabrics, includes bleaching in cow dung; sun drying; bathing in Myrobalan and Buffalo milk. After this, the rusty iron is soaked in sugar water and bran for a longer time after which these steps are repeated over and over again till all the colors have emerged. On top of this, wooden stamps along with natural colors made from various bark, fruit, seeds and roots are used to fill in additional patterns (Masulipatnam). And finally a good supply of running water, with respect to the streams and rivers in Andhra, is used for the final wash.
Beyond these established traditional techniques, fabric design printing also varies in the patterns and motifs, not only according to cultural influences but mainly through the development of fashion ideologies from then to recent times. Digital printing on fabrics has evolved over the years and signifies a healthy respect for the traditions of this craft. It has stayed true to traditional motifs and yet experimented with combinations of trendy hues as well as modern patterns that are playfully confined within the silhouette of a garment.
More authentic motifs like mythological and folk depictions, flowers, birds, paisley, Warli and Madhubani patterns still remain coveted while abstract and geometric prints are contemporary portrayals that are becoming increasingly popular. Depending on the type of kurta, salwar, lehenga or saree printing designs, the range of fabrics also has a part to play in the printing techniques as certain materials are better suited for only some processes and are still specific to their place of origin making them even more of a novelty. These fabrics include an assortment of art silks, cotton, faux fabrics, georgette, crepe, jacquard, viscose, satin, linen and jute.
Trends Of The Moment
For the most distinctive designs in fabric printing, India still carries the torch for fabric looming and hand printing processes. As these techniques have become more wide spread with countries in South America, Africa and Asia Pacific adopting them with their own interpretations, globalization and the luxury market has had a massive impact on local ethnic trends.
Some of the biggest designer names on the Indian fashion circuit have taken digital prints on traditional garments to a whole new level of creativity. So pair Kundan jewelry with lavish and elegant prints and modern metallic jewelry with the new-age screen or digital prints because no matter how old-world glamorous or progressively mesmerizing the print, the sole purpose of any added accessory is only to enhance your main garment.