The artfully chemical conscious practice of adorning textiles and yarns with pigments and flavored waters is called ‘dyeing’. The earliest colourful records of humans trying to make their mundane life vibrant and somewhat ‘fashionable’ is tracked back to the Neolithic period where traces of red dyes derived from clay were found. And who isn’t familiar with the peasants revolting against the East India Company, infamously known as the Indigo Revolt in Bengal during the British Raj.
The ubiquitous history of Indian textiles boasts of a colossal directory of textile dye options, along with organic dyes, resist dyes and homemade dyes. Dyeing clothes naturally is a primeval practice where natural dyes from plants or commonly referred to as vegetable dyes like turmeric, onion, jackfruit, et cetera were derived in their innate relish. Indigo dye was extracted from the plant Indigofera genus and the indigo dye process today is synthetic, most commonly associated with the production of denim cloth. Treasured skills and talent carried on by families for centuries of tie and dye techniques like bandhani, leheriya and the multitude of block printing arts like kalamkari and ajrakh are simply too astounding to miss one’s attention. Below mentioned are a few techniques that have been practiced largely in the Indian subcontinent and other South Asian neighbours.
Shibori tie-dye is a manual resist dyeing technique that utilizes indigo and the Shibori patterns are achieved by binding, stitching, pinching or folding the fabric in countless ways to create infinite motifs and design patterns for the warp n weft piece.
Block printing in India has recently undergone a transformation for the good so as to preserve the artistic significance but also provide well-funded opportunities for artisans to continue with these age-old traditions. It is massively used in Indian kurtis and suits.
KALAMKARI: The origin of Kalamkari is synonymous with the devotion to Hindu Mythology Gods where the scholars used to paint imagery drawing inspiration from the same and thus, giving rise to this new art.
AJRAKH: Interestingly, millennials have developed a new found interest in Ajrakh, all thanks to contemporizing of Ajrakh motifs by mainstream designers. Kutch is known for its Ajrakh dyeing and processing finesse.
BANDHANI & LEHERIYA: The history of Bandhani and Leheriya print is not any more different with their humble roots tracing back to Gujarat and Rajasthan and their records dating back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The pattern produced would be either small dots or lines that would differ from the base colour.
BATIK: Another widespread dyeing technique is Batik. It originates from Indonesia and is a resist dyeing art where the wax is removed strategically for the colour to percolate and form the design desired. A batik print cotton saree is such that it could be worn by a regular housewife to even a fashion-conscious socialite owing to its elegance and simplicity. UNESCO has also recognized the Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Dyeing and printing have thus, proved to be excellent forms of surface ornamentation which can be achieved at a cost-efficient rate if the process of execution is laid out clearly. Innumerable livelihoods depend on the same and it is time we resort to colour corroboration while creating clothes and products. The Icing on the cake would be swapping of synthetic dyes of tie and dye colours to organic homemade dyes for the environment’s sake and keeping the loop of the sustainable economy circular.
Article By: Ipsita Kaul
Ipsita is a fashion student fascinated by corresponding topics of art and sustainability. She aims to contribute to an effective dialogue tackling the above themes for a better understanding among people who are not familiar with these topics and shed light on the socio-cultural implications of the same.