Maiwa in Bengal: The Masterclass Day 3

by - Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Rural Bengal has many charms. One of them is the loudspeaker bicycle man who passes by just
before sundown. What is being broadcast over the loudspeaker? We wish we knew.

January 30, 2011

Today is mordant day. For those who are new to natural dyes, know this: dyes require that fibres be treated with a mordant if the dye is to live a long and joyous life on the cloth or yarn. Exceptions are substantive dyes (like walnut and tannins) that can bind directly unders some conditions. The plot thickens when we understand that for cotton the mordant will not stay with the fibre unless it is first treated with a tannin. Michel encourages us to think of this more complicated relationship in terms of friendship: the friend of my friend is also my friend. Cotton is friends with tannin, tannin is friends with the mordant, and the mordant is friends with the dye.

 These are generalities and there are always exceptions. Finding the exceptions can be the genius of dye chemistry. But for this first lesson, we begin with elemental truths.

The class proceeds in English, which is Michel's second language. After each phrase
there is a pause while it is translated into Hindi, Kutchi, some Bengali, and a little Amharic
for the Ethiopians. Meaning shifts easily and the group works hard to avoid confusion.

Each demonstration and example is followed very closely.

We finish up the days work with, just maybe, more questions than we had at the start. Each element that we learn raises new questions and opens up new possibilities.

Exceptional textiles, yet everyone gets what they would like.
Many claim that they already have enough shawls - but this cannot be true.

Before supper our long table is spread with the textiles that we all shared yesterday. Now that everyone has seen them they are up for sale. It is a keen crowd and pieces go quickly.

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