I have just returned from an amazing week of workshops in Fulia, Bengal. They were organised by an incredible woman called Charllotte Kwon from Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver and sponsored by the talented designer, weaver Bappa Biswas. Charllotte had invited all the artisans she has worked with over many years to share their problems with natural dyes. Most of the artisans come from different areas of India with variable water quality (too much calcium and magnesium, or high acid content). This affects their ability to achieve perfect results.
As I work with Bappa he thought it was a good opportunity for me to improve my knowledge on weaving and dying….and I was very grateful. I learnt heaps and was honoured to meet such clever people from all over India. We lived in little huts in a remote village and my room mate was a wonderfully entertaining girl with a silk hand weaving company in Ethiopia. Every night we told each other stories about our lives to make our hair stand on end. Charllotte and Bappa had organised everything flawlessly right down to the fab local cuisine we were served on palm leaf platters.
|BACK OF PALM PLATTER|
We met every day for water and dye tests with a miracle worker scientist botanist called Michel Garcia from France. His words of wisdom were translated by about 3 different translators….into Bengali Hindi, Ethiopian and heaven knows how many other Indian dialects.
Other highlights for me were a shibori workshop with Gale Anderson-Palm on Itajime (an old technique originating in Japan). Gale had us on all fours folding, clamping, dyeing and tyeing….then endlessly dipping our creations into indigo buckets.
She was a very special teacher
encouraging all of us individually and not making us feel like fools or being
too self conscious. Her
eccentricities and adventurousness just made you want to let it all hang out
with gay abandon.
treat was meeting the American Shibori weaving expert Catherine Ellis. Her book Woven Shibori is a total
inspiration and watching her work with the weavers was so amazing. Her experiences with weavers around the world has led her to
explore new techniques of weaving, shaping and layering of color with natural
dyes. The weavers couldn’t learn
enough from her, they were having such fun. It must have been so rewarding for Catherine too.
|GALE'S SHIBORI SAMPLES|
|OUR FIRST LESSON ON HANDWOVEN COTTON AND LINEN|
|BAPPA'S DYER AND HIS SAMPLES|
|MUNNAR TIE AND DYER|
|SHIBORI WEAVING SAMPLES|
|INDIGO SHIBORI WEAVING AND MADDER ITAJIME|
|COCHINEAL SHIBORI WEAVING|
|INDIGO SHIBORI WEAVING|
I also want to mention 2 of the artisans from Kutch who had some of their natural dyed bandini (tie and dye) and Ajrakh samples with them. Soooooo fabulous. Jabbar Khatri and Dr. Ismail Mohammad Khatri. What they create in that glorious desert of Gujurat is to dye for.Hopefully after all the work Charllotte and her team put into organising the symposium some of the artisans have been able to solve their water and dyeing problems.
|JABBAR'S INDIGO BANDINI (TIE AND DYE) SCARF|
|DR. ISMAEL'S AJRAKH INDIGO AND MADDER SCARF|