Story of Kalamkari Artisan Entrepreneur Thilak Reddy : Art of Hand Painting the fabrics

Kalamkari: The ancient art of Hand Painting the Fabric with Thilak Reddy.

Thilak Reddy was introduced to us for the first time at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market, In spite of all of his talent and achievements, he is one of the most humble and hardworking people we have ever met. 

Thilak, 32, practices the art of hand printing the fabrics using a bamboo pen and natural dyes to achieve intricate designs. He lives with his sister and mother in Srikalahasti, that has an indelible history of India’s painted and printed cotton trade with the world. Read here.

He is a second generation Kalamkari artist after his father. Thilak started practicing this craft at a very young age and has now been working for over 20 years. After graduation, he lost his father. He had no option but to take over all his father’s projects to help put food on the table.He worked hard for some years, saved money to pursue formal design education. Afterwards, he combined his innate skill with his design education and design sensibility to start a brand named ‘Kalamshastra’. Thilak started reviving ancient techniques with innovative design twists. Hence, he soon started getting invitations to esteemed art festivals in India.

Selection at International Folk Art Market at Santa Fe for Kalamkari

As a matter of fact, getting selected twice for the International Folk Art Market at SANTA Fe, New Mexico, was one of the biggest accomplishments of his life, as their selection process is very rigorous and the competition is very high. 

Post Santa fe, his work was identified by many designers and buyers world wide. And he started getting incredible opportunities to advance his family’s legacy. Designers love to collaborate with him and appreciate his inputs and skills. 

Collaboration with the Designers

He is grateful that the designers are enthusiastic about applying his craft. However, if the designers lack an understanding of the processes, they can sometimes set unrealistic expectations. These craft processes are detailed and slow. The tight timelines and lower profit margins sometimes take a toll on the output.

Team Structure, Expectations & Collaborations

He works with a team of 20 women artisans, who are registered under a cooperative society where every woman is an equity partner in the company. Thilak and team distributes time between doing production for brands and training more artists from the next generation. So as to pass on their valuable skill enabling the longevity of craft. In spite of all the fast industrial and technological advancements.  

Thilak enjoys all steps of this craft. He particularly enjoys the design and sketching work. He thanks designers for including him in their creative work and giving global recognition to his craft. 

Achievements in Kalamkari Craft

KALAMKARI ARTIST THILAK REDDYThilak boasts of many prestigious design shows, exhibitions and museum research in his portfolio.

Over the last few years he has developed an exceptional business model of making his team members equity shareholders in his company.  In addition, he has also created innovations on the below techniques- 

  • Reviving ancient techniques of combining block printing and hand-painting together
  • Using numerous resist techniques associated with Kalamkari
  • Innovating with wax techniques

We are proud to know Thilak and have the privilege to work with him. Sharing images of his developments for Marasim Library

Work Situation due to Covid-19

The work has completely stopped over the last 2 months. He is in touch with the designers, however there is no indication when work will resume. It is a scary situation for Thilak and team of artisans.

Hope the situation gets better soon for all of us.

Thank you

Nidhi Garg Allen

Founder & CEO


Nidhi Garg Allen is an alumnus of Parsons School of Design and Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a technologist turned artisan entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Marasim. Marasim based in NYC is committed to preserving artisanal textiles that make use of regional techniques without uprooting craftspeople from their native communities

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