I’m recently back from a few weeks in Tamil Nadu, Southern India and this post strays from dyes and textiles to celebrate kolam. Kolam are the daily drawings drawn freehand at the threshold of houses by women, using rice flour. Designs are sinuous or angular; sometimes figurative, but usually abstract. They incorporate lines enclosing series of dots called pulli. Kolam can be found in many parts of India, where they are known by other names, such as rangoli and muggulu.
Kolam have religious and ornamental significance and there are several websites devoted to explanations on their history, making and meaning – as well as their complex mathematics. I’ve put some links below but I warn you, it’s addictive stuff.
I began to photograph kolam in Tamil Nadu because I was instantly attracted to them for their apparent simplicity, only to find them much too complex to sketch accurately in a busy, scorching street. I photographed them so that I could study them in more depth and back at the hotel I found the internet generous with explanations and video demonstrations. Thus I realised (duh) that the dots were not the embellishments I had at first thought. They were the key to the structure of each kolam and created a guide for freehand drawing of the design.
One of my courses teaches students to create patterned scarves and shawls on silk using wax resist. I discourage students drawing a design onto the silk with pencil or a textile marker to follow with wax or fluid resist. Apart from being difficult to remove, it normally saps fluidity and freedom from the drawing. I have taught that the use of small guide marks can greatly assist freehand drawing on the silk. With some experience of kolam structure I will be able to pass on these examples as inspirational freehand, yet guided, drawings.
Websites: Kolam information:
April 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm
Isabella,was hoping to see some Indian sketches..so fascinating..I did do my homework while you were there! any chance of a few more Sketch book pages?..not for the world..just little Ol me!!! Lots of love Eva
Sent from my iPad
April 23, 2017 at 9:22 pm
Thanks for the speedy comments! I’ll send you some sketchbook page photos when I’m back from my next round of teaching. Do you remember kolam from your days in India?
April 24, 2017 at 1:18 pm
As always, Isabella, a fascinating slant on your Indian trip, I knew nothing about this, so thanks for sharing. I bet you forgot to bring me back a pebble though!!
April 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm
Thank you, Richard. I’m sorry to admit I did forget a pebble this time, but I still have two at home for you to hand over from trips elsewhere!
April 29, 2017 at 4:45 pm
Reblogged this on mndigo and commented:
This came across my screen, just as we are searching for ways to use surface design in our Indigo Tablecloths. Fascinating freehand drawing, with dot guides.
April 29, 2017 at 5:25 pm
I’m glad this resonated with you and thanks for the reblog.