Article: From remote Laos to haute couture – A journey of indigo dye

 

 

SAVANNAKHET, Laos: The fashion world loves indigo, but its popularity stretches back for centuries.

In Japan, this deep blue colour was worn by aristocrats and samurais. In India, its paste was dried into cakes and traded along the Silk Route, by which it entered Europe. Indigo was known in ancient Greece as indikon, which literally means ‘Indian’.

Today, indigo is the most popular colour for denim worn by millions of people worldwide. Every year, tens of thousands of tonnes of indigo dye is produced but most of it is synthetic. Its natural version is harder to find as the extraction of colour is done by hand in a complicated and time-consuming process.

In 2008, the Lao government launched a programme called One District One Product (ODOP) with help from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Focusing on Savannakhet and Saravanh provinces, ODOP is aimed at improving local livelihoods through the promotion of marketable products for export.

“It has helped reducing poverty, improving the lives of the people in the village and creating jobs,”

To read the full article go to the website of CHANNEL NEWSASIA

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Article: Batik – The European connection

 

Javanese batik, the pride of Indonesia, has been the subject of research by many historians from around the world. It is so exceptional that in 2009 it was placed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Heritage.

Historical records and archaeological findings suggest that the wax-resist dyeing technique or batik may not be unique to Indonesia because for thousands of years it was practised in countries like China, Greece, India and South America.

This article looks at the work of OATG member Maria Wronska-Friend on the impact of Javanese batik on textile traditions outside Indonesia. Her 2016 book Batik Jawa bagi Dunia (Javanese Batik to the World), was reviewed in Asian Textiles 67 in June 2017.

The credit for introducing Javanese batik to Europe in the last decade of the 19th century belonged to the Dutch, the then-colonial rulers of Indonesia. From Holland it spread to other countries, especially France, Germany and Poland.

However, the adaptation of the Javanese technique in Poland has a very interesting history.  In Eastern Europe there is an ancient tradition of decorating eggs with wax-resist dyeing — a technique very similar to Javanese batik.

Editor’s note: this tradition must have been quite widespread as we saw wax-resist decorated eggs in the Museum of Ethnography in Dubrovnik, Croatia. See images below.

 

 

According to Wronska-Friend “The interest in Javanese batik technique was immense across Europe. In the 1920s, thousands of artists, some of them very famous, practised the batik technique. It also became a fashionable female hobby”.

To read the full article visit the website of  The Jakarta Post

 

Article: Alive with artisans – Cairo’s al-Darb al-Ahmar district – a photo essay

 

 

“Whatever manufactured items there are in the world,” wrote the Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi in 1671, “the poor of Cairo get hold of them, set them out and trade in them.” Nearly 350 years later, this tradition lives on in al-Darb al-Ahmar. This neighbourhood of 100,000 people, south-east of central Cairo, is said to be home to a thousand workshops. The place teems with artisans crafting everything from tents, books, boxes and brass lanterns to glass bowls and silk carpets.

The Street of the Tentmakers captures this commercial spirit. Built in 1650 as an arcade, this covered street is a succession of workrooms whose interiors are lined with decorative textiles. From his cubic cavity in the Ottoman-era wall, a weaver called Hasan says that al-khayyamiya, the craft of tentmaking, goes back to the time of the pharaohs. Some of today’s weavers are descended from the families who would produce the kiswa, the fabric that covered the great stone at Mecca, as well as tents, cloths and saddles for those setting out on pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site.

This article gives an excellent overview of this district of Cairo with its weavers, dyers, bookbinders, carpet makers, glass blowers and lantern makers, explaining how many of the buildings have been restored with the help of the Aga Khan Development Network.

To read the full article visit the website of the Guardian

A free exhibition of photographs entitled The artisans of al-Darb al-Ahmar: life and work in historic Cairo is also taking place from 23 March – 24 April at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

For more information visit their website here

Article: Innovation and sustainability to ensure future of Indonesian batik

 

 

Batik is not just a pattern on fabric – it is integral to Indonesian identity.

Every design has a special meaning and a story that has been passed down through the generations by the artisans who have mastered this craft.

Batik is a wearable art created through an intricate process involving wax-resist dyeing cloth and is believed to date back more than 1,000 years in Indonesia. Artists can create complex patterns and add multiple colours by repeating the drawing and dyeing process.

In modern society, it is rare for fashion to last years, let alone centuries, but batik is a living example of a timeless creation. It continues to be worn by all members of society, mostly on formal occasions.

The popularity of the art form was assisted in 2009 when the UNESCO listed batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity – or a significant piece of intangible cultural history.

This article examines batik production in Cirebon and the move to the use of natural dyes by some craftspeople.

To read the full article visit the website of CHANNEL NEWSASIA here

Article: From lotus pond to high fashion

 

 

INLE, Myanmar: If there should be any textile fitting for faith and devotion, a piece of fine fabric meticulously woven by hand from the delicate fibres of tens of thousands of lotus stems is no doubt one of the top contenders.

“A square metre of this fabric requires at least 20,000 lotus stems and takes a skilled artisan 40 days to produce,” said Myint Thein Htun, owner of the established lotus weaving centre Khit Sunn Yin.

The lotus’ beauty, symbolic of purity of the mind in Buddhism, inspired the devout artisan to turn its delicate filaments into a monk robe – a sacred offering of passionate devotion and purity of the soul. Legend has it that Sa Oo spent one whole year extracting and weaving lotus fibres into an exquisite garment for an abbot she revered.

“The stem is long and fresh in deep water but short and weak in shallow areas,” said Myint Thein Htun. His family has been making lotus fabric for four generations and is renowned for its expertise in the craft.

“If we harvest in the dry season when the mud is less fertile, the stem won’t be strong enough.”

After the harvest, each stem is gently cut with a fine blade and carefully pulled apart to expose the delicate fibres within. These almost transparent filaments are then rolled on a moist surface into a thread.

To read the full article visit the website of  CHANNEL NEWSASIA

 

Article: Master Weavers of Bhujodi

 

 

Up until fifty years ago, weaving was not an year-round activity. Bhujodi’s inhabitants dedicated half of the year to farming, and the other half to weaving. But due to climatic shifts that caused inconsistency of the monsoon and its consequential lack of water, farming became less reliable. In order to sustain a living, the shift to weaving became the community’s main livelihood.

The village of Bhujodi is now full of weavers. But how does one distinguish the quality of a weaver’s work from that of another, beyond that relative degree of “taste” that one may own, or years of expertise most people do not possess? Dinesh’s response is humorous and poignant: “It’s just like handwriting. Some have good handwriting, some have bad handwriting.”

Good weavers work with their mind. The mind needs to “see” the pieces. Some people do not see it. But those who have been the benefactors of generational continuity see it. According to Dinesh, it is not just about weaving–the mind needs to be trained. They have lived with the art and have been weaving for generations so they recognise what quality needs to be.

Read more about these master weavers, along with some stunning photography and video on the Moo Won website

Article: Chinese Village Keeps Alive a Tradition of Indigo Dyeing

“For a Dong family, having a loom is just as important as having a cow,” said Lai Lei, the founder of a weaving and dyeing co-op in a nearby village. “As children, we grow up listening to the sound of the loom.”

 

 

 

 

This article looks at the attempts to keep the tradition of indigo dyeing and polishing alive in Guizhou province, southern China. The cloth is dyed evry day for two weeks and then has an application of either cowhide extract or egg whites. The shine is achieved by hitting the cloth repeatedly with a wooden mallet. Deep indigo-stained hands are a badge of honour.

To read the full article please visit the website of  The New York Times

Article: The Fabled Flatbreads of Uzbekistan

While not strictly related to textiles, this article will surely bring back great memories for the many OATG members who have visited Uzbekistan.

 

It chronicles a love affair with flatbread with the author, Eric Hansen, visiting nonvoy (bread bakers) in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Urgench.  There are so many examples of the importance of the bread – placing it under a baby’s head in the hope of a long life, under the legs of a toddler to wish them a blessed journey through life etc. Hansen also meets a chekich ustasi (bread stamp master), responsible for making the wooden and metal stamps which form a decorative pattern on the non.

 

To read the full article visit the website of AramcoWorld

Article: Making Sense of Textile Family Trees

In this fascinating article, Chris Buckley looks at the ways patterns in weaving skills and motifs in warp ikats from Southeast Asia can be used to work out family tree relationships between different textiles.

Hook motifs are shared by most Southeast Asian weaving traditions and were present in the last common ancestor of all warp ikat in the region

Hook motifs are shared by most Southeast Asian weaving traditions and were present in the last common ancestor of all warp ikat in the region

One aspect of being human is the enjoyment of patterns. We like to spot familiar forms, and we respond to rhythm and repetition, whether in music, art or decorative designs. Some think these skills are innate: they helped our ancestors to understand their environment, find food and survive. Before writing this piece I spent some time reviewing postings on Pamela Cross’s textile forum and it is remarkable how many of the postings by textile enthusiasts (my own included) relate to the discussion of connections between textiles and traditions in neighboring areas.
Puzzling out the connections between textile forms, motifs and cultures seems to be an irresistible challenge, and part of the enjoyment of the field. Professional scholars are far from immune from the delights of this pursuit: many scholarly books on Asian textiles include observations of the similarities in techniques and textile motifs between different parts of Asia.
Up to now these observations have remained largely speculative, but new techniques hold out the promise of uncovering connections in a more systematic way. In this article I hope to share some of these techniques and some of the excitement surrounding them.

To read the full article in our magazine, Asian Textiles, join the OATG.

Article: Unsung Heroes of Javanese Batik

One of the largest batik workshops in Indonesia is Batik Danar Hadi in Solo, owned and operated by Santosa Doellah and his wife, Danarsih Hadipriyono

One of the largest batik workshops in Indonesia is Batik Danar Hadi in Solo, owned and operated by Santosa Doellah and his wife, Danarsih Hadipriyono

Ian Reed and Greg Roberts are passionate enthusiasts and collectors of old and new batik from the north coast of Java, known as batik Pasisir. In this article, Greg Roberts echoes the rallying call of the late batik maestro Pak Iwan Tirta, for greater recognition to be given to the crucial role of the pengobeng (batikkers or waxers) in the making of batik and to the significance of the filler motifs, isen-isen and tanahan. The rewards of visiting batik workshops and experiencing the batik making process first hand are also highlighted. The article is not intended to be an historical survey of batik Pasisir and doesn’t attempt to define and trace the its origins or its anthropological aspects.

To read the full article in our magazine, Asian Textiles, join the OATG.