Sunday, January 30, 2011

Maiwa in Bengal: The Masterclass Day 1

January 28, 2011

Today is the first day of the Maiwa Masterclass in Natural Dyes. The workshop was conceived by Charllotte Kwon as a way to gather experienced artisans from widely divergent backgrounds who are working in different techniques.

Artsans have come from as far away as Ethiopia, as close as the next lane of this village, and from all over India. Guiding the natural dye component of this workshop is Michel Garcia. On this first day he will gather the questions, problems and concerns of the artisans. This is a daunting task: some artisans, such as the blockprinters, are heavily constrained by their process. Washing their cloth in the middle of the procedure, for example, is not an option.

For others such as the ikat weavers, changing the order of dyes might result in a huge amount of extra work because they must tie entire lengths of yarns in order to resist the dye and get a certain colour.



Loading up before dawn, the bags are tied to the roof of the car.


Our day begins at about 4:30 am. We are packed and ready to go. Our group which was supposed to be limited to 20 and has now climbed to 25, collect in central Kolkatta. We put together a convoy of artisans who have packed luggage with water samples, dye samples, yarns, fabrics and an entire range of finished pieces.

The gathering. Soon the table is covered in fibres and samples.
In the afternoon we gather at a long table and the questions begin, at first tentatively, then comfortably - why do we get indigo rub off when we package our textiles for international shipment, how can we get fields of pure colour, are there contaminants in our water, how can we check it ourselves ...

Water and dye samples are unpacked and labeled to show which group brought them.
The goal of the dyers is always what might be called legacy dying: colours that are the shades that the dyer wanted. Colours that are as lightfast, rubfast and washfast as possible. Textiles that are exquisite, with beautiful colours that show the apex of the artisans art.






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