Textiles at an Exhibition

by - Monday, October 17, 2011

These are the works that were on display as part of the Masterworks Exhibit and the information identifying the artisan and how the masterclass influenced production. Click on the images to see larger versions.

Group: Koyyalgudem
Region: Koyyalgudem, Andhra Pradesh, India
Artisans: Shrinath Edem
Specialty: Ikat dyeing and weaving
The Masterwork: Double ikat on silk with gold zari thread. Dyed with indigo, cochineal, and lac. 
Comments: In our exhibit piece we have used three colours: indigo, black, and red. The indigo dyeing we have done in our traditional way.

The black was obtained from a new technique learned at the masterclass: overdyeing red with indigo. This has given us the ability to use natural dyes to create  a black colour that is fast. The black shade  we made is an interesting reddish black, different from the typical jet black. 

The red colour used in the warp has also been achieved through a new method developed at the workshop. This is the first time ever that we have created a red using cochineal and lac. We used yarn dyed with alizarin in the traditional way for the weft.

We also learned to refine the mordant process. Earlier, we used to dye the yarn immediately after mordanting. In the workshop, we learned that the yarn should be dried after the mordant process, washed, and then dyed. With this improvement, we are able to get better colours than before. We used this process for our masterwork.

The new knowledge inspired us to try a new technique in our weaving. We combined linked weaving for the first time with his ikat technique, using zari and mulberry silk.

Our knowledge of indigo dyeing has increased. We learned that the henna vat is good for dyeing silk in indigo and the ferrous vat is a simple, easy, and very good vat for dyeing cotton yarn in indigo. We also learned about the use of alum acetate as a mordant.


Group: Bhujodi weavers & dyers
Region: Bhujodi village, Kutch Desert, Gujarat, India
Artisans: Shamji Vishram Vankar
Specialty: Lac and indigo on wool. Traditional woollen shawls
The Masterwork: Wool shawl dyed with lac, indigo, henna, sappanwood, madder and cutch.
Comments: We learned how to control a natural indigo fermentation vat through regulating the temperature. Earlier methods were both slow and inconsistent. We now use an immersion heater with our vats buried in the ground.

For lac dyeing, we learned how to accurately match the quantity of tamarind to the quantity of wool. Previous methods resulted in sticky yarns and were only effective on the local “desi” wool. When we tried to dye finer wools such as merino they became sticky and would snap.

In the workshop we learned the best dye methods for wools. We used these new methods to dye merino wool successfully in lac for the first time. We had tried  before, but never got good results. In this piece we got the right colours and a usable yarn for weaving. 

We also learned a repeatable procedure for  using dyes like cutch, and sapanwood. We are now able to get consistent, repeatable results. Before everything was ad-hoc. Sometimes it worked - sometimes it didn’t. Often we didn’t know why. Now the lustre of our yarns has improved because of sufficient boiling.

Overall, our confidence in producing new colours with natural dyes has increased.


Group: Aranya Natural Dye Project
Region: Munar Hills, Kerela, India
Artisans: Victoria Krishnakumar, Mrs. Banumathy, Mrs. Mallika
Specialty: Shibori patterning techniques with natural dyes.
The Masterwork: Quilt. Each member of Aranya contributed a square of cloth that they created.
Comments:  I am glad to inform you that we made a master class piece with various types of Itajime and Shibori using natural dyes. The size of the piece is 275cm long and 65cm wide. For mordants we have used aluminium acetate to fix the colour.

The back side of the cloth is made from Linen fabric dyed with indigo. The method used is the ferrous vat.


Group: Khatri Blockprinters
Region: Ajrakhpur, Kutch Desert, Gujarat, India
Artisans: Ismail Mohammed Khatri
Specialty: Traditional Ajrakh blockprint with natural dyes.
The Masterwork: Traditional Ajrakh blockprint. Dyed with indigo and lac.
Comments: We dyed an Ajrakh using indigo and lac. Previously we would have used indigo and alizarin (a dye component found in madder which is now produced synthetically). We are happy to replace the synthetic alizarin with natural lac. This was  the lac technique that we learned in the masterclass. 

We also learned about water treatment and have put this knowledge to use. This has improved the lustre of our colours. 

We learned many new things at the workshop, but were especially impressed with the lab tests. We improved our understanding of the different forms of alum, (sulphate, acetate etc.) We think that there should be two or three such workshops to reinforce our education and help us absorb all the aspects in a thorough way.

We were particularly impressed with the testing of water, porosity, and phosphorus tests etc. It is very difficult for us to get the water checked at source and it needs to be checked with every production to ensure consistency.


Group: Khatri Blockprinters
Region: Ajrakhpur, Kutch Desert, Gujarat, India
Artisans: Adham Khatri
Specialty: Contemporary blockprinting, and bandhani, with natural dyes.
The Masterwork: Bandhani cloth dyed with henna and indigo.
Comments: We worked on silk mordanted with myrobalan. The black rings are blockprinted with iron. The cloth is boiled in alizarin and then bandhani tied to match the blockprinted rings. We then used the Ferrous Vat method for dyeing Indigo. We learned this process in the workshop and found it to be quicker than our traditional natural way of dyeing indigo. Finally the pieces is dyed in rhubarb.


Group: Khatri Blockprinters
Region: Ajrakhpur, Kutch Desert, Gujarat, India
Artisans: Aurangzeb Khatri
Specialty:  Traditional blockprint with natural dyes.
The Masterworks:  2 Blockprinted Ajrakhs on silk. 1)  Dyed with henna, rhubarb and indigo. 2) Dyed with lac and indigo.
Comments: We used alum acetate as a mordant on one of the pieces. Previously we had used only alum. 

We used a henna vat for indigo dyeing. We also created a piece with lac dye, which we learned in the workshop. The piece we  sent also shows rhubarb dyeing which we did in the traditional way.


Group: Bandhani tyers
Region: Bhuj, Kutch Desert, Gujarat, India
Artisans: Jabbar Khatri
Specialty: Bandhani tie and dye.
The Masterwork: Bandhani tied piece on silk dyed with henna, indigo and madder.
Comments: For the first time ever, we first applied alum and dyed the fabric in henna. After  which it went for tying. Once tied, we dyed the fabric in indigo and (for the first time again) we gave the indigo a henna topping. 

After this we did a resist and dyed the fabric again in madder (this was the only old dyeing technique for this piece, all the other dyeing processes come from what we learned at the workshop).

A significant new idea for us was that we could get a better green by doing the henna process in warm water. Earlier, we used to boil the water, which never gave us a satisfactory green, whereas the slow heating and controlled temperature has given us a better green!

Our understanding and knowledge of alum acetate, ferrous acetate, and the overall natural dyeing process has improved quite a bit since the workshop.


Group: Sabahar
Region: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Artisans: Kathy Marshall, Burtukanteshome Workineh, Almaznegash Yefru
Specialty: The use of hand-spun eri silk in naturally dyed, handwoven shawls.
The Masterwork: Wall hanging, 100% silk - mulberry and eri. The flowers are mulberry silk cocoons.
Comments: Our creation represents our journey: trying to use our knew knowledge of organic fruit vats with indigo dye in Ethiopia.

It took many attempts and a lot of effort – not to mention many kilograms of mangos, bananas and henna.

We finally succeeded. The cocoon flowers are all dyed with indigo. The green cocoon flowers are dyed with a combination of indigo and mescal flowers. Mescal is the national flower of Ethiopia.


Group: Guldasta
Region: Boko, Assam, India
Artisans: Chandan and Shrinalatha Keshab
Specialty: Handwoven wild silks.
The Masterwork: Warp and weft are handspun eri silk. Both pieces use the woven shibori technique. The grey piece is dyed in jackfruit and lac with an alum mordant. The gold piece is dyed in  myrobalan with an alum and iron mordant.
Comments: We were very excited to learn about woven shibori. It is a patterning tecnhnique that can be taught to many more weavers in our area, giving people a new skill for enhancing their livelihood.

We have dyed yarn with aluminium sulphate as a mordant. Before we used to prepare aluminium potassium sulphate for mordanting, which was a costly preparation and could be used only for one dye lot. It could not be stored for later. This meant that the remaining portion of mordant had to be thrown away, which was a waste. In the workshop we learned to make aluminium sulphate, which is not only more economical (now that it can be stored) but it is also more environmentally friendly, since they we not have to use potassium. 

These two major innovations from this workshop will significantly impact our traditional craft practice.

Apart from this, we have learned two new variations for indigo vats. Traditionally we knew only one vat technique, which limited our work because of the complexity involved. Having learned these two additional simple techniques is going to make our work easier and will save costs.


Group: Dosaya Blockprinters
Region: Bagru, Rajasthan, India
Artisans: Mahesh Dosaya
Specialty: Dabu mud printing - a form of traditional blockprint from the Jaipur area using dabu mud resist.
The Masterwork: Two large pieces of cotton, blockprinted with natural indigo, madder, henna, and iron.
Comments: Our masterwork pieces are dyed with indigo made through the ferrous vat process (learned at the workshop). The reds are obtained with 100% pure madder. For our piece we changed our source of alum so that we mordanted with alum that did not contain any ferrous impurities - this we learned from Michel Garcia. 

The printing takes advantage of traditional techniques which were also taught at the workshop such as thickening the dyes with guar gum. We used the traditional “ironwater” (a ferrous mixture) to get our blacks.

The design is from my grandfather and is a traditional Bagru design for a bed cover. Our technique is known as “dabu and block.”


Group: Bengal Weavers
Region: Bengal, India
Artisans: Gautam Kumar Basak
Specialty: Jamdani and Bengal weaves
The Masterwork: Two pieces using woven shibori on silk, dyed with indigo.
Comments: Earlier we had tried something like the shibori technique but we did not complete the binding process properly. The dyes seeped into the part  of the fabric we wished to resist.

In the master class we learned that choosing the weft yarn is also important for the patterns to be clear.

We learned that the shibori binding thread used before was not good. Now with correct threads the process works. Exposure to the different weave structure has helped us innovate more on the weaving patterns and the form.

Learning the details of woven shibori was absolutely important. We applied what we learned to the pieces.


Group: Catharine Ellis 
Region: North Carolina, USA
Artisan: Catharine Ellis 
Specialty: Woven Shibori
The Masterwork: Egyptian cotton, woven at the Oriole Mill. Mordanted with gallic tannin and aluminum acetate. Cloth gathered and dyed in logwood, then released and dyed in weld.
Comments: I will say right up front that natural dyes are hard - a lot of physical work and still so many unknowns for me. But while in India with you I made the commitment to pursue this and have stuck to it. I learn something every day I’m in the studio - often it’s not what I set out to learn, but I get to observe what reveals itself after things don’t turn out the way I thought they would.

One of the things that made the biggest impression on me was the lightweight fabrics that were woven in Bengal. It left me with a lust for lightweight cloth. 

The weld is from my garden. 


Group: Gale Anderson-Palm 
Region: Rimby, Alberta, Canada
Artisan: Gale Anderson-Palm
Specialty: Indigo dyeing, hand weaving
The Masterwork: Indigo shawl, Madder/cochineal shawl
Comments: I have been dyeing like a mad woman, at all hours of the night and day - once in an electrical storm which I was sure was The End Of The World.

The  indigo shawl is one of my own handwoven singles, linen at 16 ends per inch. I used the ferrous indigo vat as taught by Michel Garcia.

The other shawl is a Bengal weave, it was white when I started. I used madder at 100% weight of fibre and ½ oz. of cochineal for good measure. The ferrous vat again.

Each shawl was dyed twice using the pole shibori method. I have been working on several pieces. I am not entirely happy - the indigo seems muddy & dull-looking as opposed to clear and bright. Much to learn! 


Group: Jane Stafford
Region: Salt Spring Island, Canada
Artisan: Jane Stafford
Specialty: The architecture of cloth
The Masterwork: Handwoven cotton/silk with Sequin yarn using hand-punched sequins.
Comments: While the Masterclass was in progress, I spent a portion of my time walking in the village,  visiting and observing the weavers.

It was inspiring to see them using the same yarns to create so many different looks in their cloth. Some techniques were very complex, done with full Jacquard heads, manipulating every single warp thread individually, but  many weavers employed simple methods  to create astonishing cloth. These were familiar techniques that I have taught in my workshops for years. It was both inspiring and reassuring to see these very same techniques being used with yarns so fine you could barely see them.

The weavers were using the same yarns over and over again – so I chose to limit my sample yarns to just two (2/16 cotton for warp and 2/30 silk for weft).   I reviewed photos of my favourite Saris  and chose 6 colours to create all the fabrics plus the sequin yarn that they make by hand. I needed sequins to stuff into the double-weave pockets and could’t find any, so I decided to make my own by punching them from colourful pop cans with a paper punch.  My goal was to create 5 fabrics using the same  two yarns,  five colours and some of the simple yet highly effective techniques that were being used in Bengal.


Group: Maiwa Handprints
Region: Vancouver, Canada
Artisan: Danielle Bush
Specialty: Natural dyes
The Masterwork: (in progress)
Seven mandalas inspired by the Indian chakra system to be printed with natural dyes on silk and organic cotton.
Comments: For my masterclass piece, I wanted to create something that reflected the Indian sensibility toward colours and their specific healing properties.  Working within the chakra energy system, I have designed seven mandalas to be painted with natural dyes on organic cotton.

Sahasrara ~ Crown
Anja ~ Minds Eye
Vishuddha ~ Voice
Anahata ~ Heart
Manipura ~ Solar Plexus
Svadhisthana ~ Sacral
Muladhara ~ Root

Working at Maiwa Handprints has been a constant inspiration for me. Participating in the Masterclass workshop and working alongside exceptional artisans in India has nurtured my growing passion and understanding for natural dyes and surface design.  


Group: Maiwa Handprints
Region: Vancouver, Canada
Artisan: Tim McLaughlin
Specialty: Photography and videography, editing, archiving, and writing
The Masterwork: Two fragments of video footage showing key moments in the unfolding of the workshop.
Comments: Sometimes the part stands in for the whole – and so it is for me with these video clips. They are short moments that recall everything that happened in one remarkable week.

Chandan’s meditative – almost therapeutic – indigo dyeing is a testament to stillness. It is a quiet moment in the weather of activity that took place each day. Here is a man seduced by blue.

The unwrapping of a dyed piece was done in groups with much laughter and excitement. Faces and dyed hands. Artisans proudly holding what is newly-made up to the light.


Group: Maiwa Handprints
Region: Vancouver, Canada
Artisan: Charllotte Kwon, Sophena Kwon
Specialty: Design and production of clothing featuring natural dyes and promoting the continuation of artisan traditions.
The Masterwork: Cotton scarves and linen tea-towels dyed a range of colours with natural dyes.
Comments: Maiwa works on linen - it is one of the hardest fibres to naturally dye. We love linen and needed to be able to dye it as effectively as we naturally-dye cotton.

Indian artisans are skilled in dyeing cotton, but like us they don’t have deep experience with linen. 

We have seen significant impovement by using alum acetate at 8% on linen with a long (2 day) mordant  which is neutralized with calcium carbonate prior to dyeing. We are still experimenting with dry/wet hot/cold variations.


Did you see the exhibit? Comments are welcome.

You May Also Like


  1. Thanks for this post with all its detail. I did attend the opening, but because of where I was standing, I was not able to follow the pieces as Charllotte spoke about them, so this is very much appreciated. The central ikat piece is astounding.

  2. How do I get contacted about Maiwa events like this in the future ? I would love to attend sometime ! ~edith

  3. i'd like to know if i could buy the work produced by bengal weavers?

  4. The work of Bengal weavers is available in our online store here:


    And a wide selection is also available in our Granville Island Store.


We moderate comments to keep posts on-topic, avoid spam, and inappropriate language. Comments should appear within 24 hours.