Natural dyes are known for their use in coloring of food substrate, leather as well as natural protein fibres like wool and cotton as major ares of application since pre-historic times. Since the advent of widely available and cheaper synthetic dyes in 1856 the use of natural dyes has declined to a great extent. However, recently there has been revival of the growing interest on the application of natural dyes on natural fibres due to worldwide environmental consciousness.
Naturally dyes can be extracted by soaking, heating and boiling – flower, petals, leaves, barks, roots and fruits. The cloth (post-mordanting) is dipped in the extraction for molecular bond between mordant and dye. The strength of this molecular bond determines the darkness and fastness of the color on the fabric. If the bond is weak the dye molecules will bleed and fad off in short period of time. This is why just knowing the recipe of a natural dye in not enough. One need to develop the eye for it. Traditionally, master-dyers used to be the person whom everyone looked upto for perfection. With practice master dyers develop sensitivity and intuition in the art and craft of natural dyeing.
Initially, there were dyes derived only from natural sources. The recipes of natural dyes used to be passed on orally from father to son within family. However, with the commercialisation of synthetic dyes in 1920s the demand for naturally dyed cloth receded. With the changing times, the secret recipes on which the tradition dyer families took pride were made irrelevant. With the declining use of natural dyes, the recipes were either destroyed or forgotten with time. Now when the trends is coming a full circle, one finds that there is very little documentation of natural dyes done at that time.
Natural dyes in Jaipur
However, if you are in Jaipur you can get glimpses in the mysterious world of natural dyes and the traditional designs that used to be printed in the hand block printing. Anokhi with their museum of hand block printing has done an amazing work to document the art and craft of hand block printing. One could also visit Sanganer and Bagru to see the modern/chemical ways of printing with hand and screen. Nevertheless, natural dye is no where to be found… except only at the workshop of Wabisabi Project.
Wabisabi Project has explored various natural dyeing methods and processes and implemented them in the local conditions of Jaipur and Bagru. Hence, in the process tried to rub off the collective wisdom of such pre-historic practices on themselves. They are now offering and sharing this knowledge and processes with everyone via workshops this fall.The workshops will be conducted at the countryside facility in Bagru. So, if you are in Jaipur looking for some serious natural dye classes or just a recreational getaway with traditional crafts – this seems to be the place. It is open to people all skill levels. You could choose the days for which want to do the workshop – one day, two day, four day and seven day, increasing in intensity.
These workshops are recommended by Anokhi.