Grade 2 field trip to Kalakshetra

The Grade 2 students went on a field trip to Kalakshetra to observe their Kalamkari unit.

Objective of the Visit:

  • Compare natural and man-made materials
  • Observe and record the steps involved in the making of natural dyes
  • Understand the process of weaving
  • Appreciate the effort of the people working behind the scenes in creating beautiful and colourful fabric

In class, learners were introduced to this unit through experiments, problem solving and quizzing. Learners also read books on ‘Silk worms’ and how the worm helps in making silk thread which is then woven to make fabric. To further their understanding of the different products that can be made from natural materials the students were taken to see the Kalamkari unit.

About Kalakshetra and the Kalamkari unit, Kalakshetra

Kalakshetra, as the name suggests, is a centre for artistic endeavour. Founded in 1936 by the vibrant visionary Rukmini Devi Arundale, the Institution stands testimony to her dream of creating a space where the essence of Indian thought would find expression through artistic education. An institution she established with the vision “of imparting to the young the true spirit of Art, devoid of vulgarity and commercialism.”

Spread over almost 100 acres by the seashore in Chennai, the Kalakshetra Foundation, as it is known today, is a vital centre for the study and performance of fine arts, envisioned and designed with the style and proportion of Indian aesthetics.

The Kalamkari Unit of Kalakshetra uses methods based on extensive research. The dyes used in Kalamkari are colours extracted from plants, roots leaves and similar vegetable matter, combined with minerals like iron and mordant like alum. These colours are not gaudy and they do not fade as easily as the chemical dyes.

The students were received by Ms. Anusha, a student of NIFT and a subject expert, who was with us through the entire duration of the visit.

We began the tour with the weaving unit. Here learners got to see the how the cotton is made into a yarn and with the help of ‘Charkha’ it is spun and made into small spools that would fit in the ‘shuttle’ of the weaving machine. Learners got to see the ‘loom’ in action and how the shuttle took the thread up and down to make beautiful fabric.

Later we saw the block printing being done on fabric. Here we were introduced to the process of making natural dyes. The dye they were using were made of jaggery and iron. Jaggery is first mixed in water. Iron is then added into this and kept closed in a big drum. This is then allowed to ferment for 21 days. It is then strained and mixed with Arabic gum to get the dye.

We then were taken to the store room where we saw Arabic gum, the dry flowers used in making different colour dyes. Later we saw how the fabric is washed to remove the extra gum. The fabric is then dried under the sunlight, ironed and then folded.

In the hand painting unit, we saw the fabrics being hand painted using the natural dyes. The artists used bamboo sticks instead of brush to paint. The bamboo stick is sharpened and the yarn is spun around the tip of the stick. It is then dipped in the dye. While painting, they squeeze this yarn to get the dye flowing.

Learners were in awe of the intricate designs on the fabric. The ‘master’ of this unit demonstrated the drawing of these designs on the fabric.

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