Natural Dyes in Indonesia
I've been very fortunate to spend the last few weeks in Bali, exploring the vibrant scene of artisan & commercial natural dye studios, factories, farms, gardens and co-operatives.
My original intention for this trip was to explore pioneering examples of working commercial dye facilities, to inform my next steps with Botanical Inks. An exciting prospect in itself, however, in the process I have discovered so much more than I could have expected.
What really stands out is the incredible diversity of textile art traditions across the islands of Indonesia, and the depth of meaning to their practices, which vary in their use of, ' basic weaving, through supplementary warp and weft patterning, discontinuous weft and warp-wrapping methods, to the three ikat processes (warp, weft and double-ikat), and batik.'
I've learned a lot from the Threads of Life organization in Ubud, who help relieve rural artisans from poverty by supporting them in finding a commercial market for their traditional textile arts.
"Our aim here is to give context to the textiles and fine crafts seen at Threads of Life. Though each object is alluring and beautiful in its own right, it is a material expression of an indigenous culture. Appreciation of an object deepens with our understanding of the intangible culture of values and meanings that its maker sought to express. The object turns from a clever combination of materials into the expression of a personal journey that can touch and inform our lives, too." (William Ingram, Threads Of Life).
Textiles here are also valuable tools for particular ceremonies, such as weddings, funerals and teeth filing (a ritual every Balinese person must undergo, in which the 6 upper front teeth are filed down by a priest - each representing one of the 6 weaknesses: anger, jealousy, lust, drunkeness, greed and confusion. Special cloths are hand dyed and woven for these occasions, to wrap specific parts of the body or important religious statues, in preparation for ritual.
Its been wonderful to learn more about how natural dyes are used for creating these alluring cloth designs, and of course, inspiring to learn about a widespread use of natural dye practices.
The Bebali Foundation, is an incredible resource, having documented over 300 dye plant species across the archipelago, many used to produce minor colors, to manipulate the oiling process chemistry, or vary the shades of the dominant colors.
I have been amazed at the range of colour that is possible from just 5 base colours, red, blue, yellow, brown and black, each from a different local plant.
I've been working on an exciting project with a commercial dye house to produce a line of organic conscious clothing, suitable for Western cultures, which can be worn for our own rituals: yoga, dance and celebration. More news on this in the coming weeks..!
Something that will stay with me from this trip, is the experience of being surrounded by constant daily blessings and ceremonies. There is an air of sanctity and love in Bali. The smell of incense burning on alters along every street throughout the days, and the local people dressed in their sari's offering blessings to their alters, street, houses, shops, cars...All spaces are continually being blessed which creates a deep sense of presence and feels blissfully lovely!
As a botanical and mineral artist, this really has been an inspiring place for deepening my practice and setting intentions for the path ahead. Being surrounded by lush green nature, art, spirituality, wellness and radical self expression in the friendly communities is another thing..
I am very grateful for my time in Bali, for the healing, the inspiration, new visions, people, experiences, practices and clarity that I have been blessed with each day.
And look, I now have a shiny new website to show you, which explains more of what I do outside of Botanical Inks: http://babsbehan.com/