Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Colours from Nature - natural dyeing, part II

july 28~30th, 2001

this is another trip centered on natural dyeing. teacher conducted the weekend seminar in the town of 'Kong-gu', about an hour outside of Seoul. 'Kong-gu' is a nice town, full of artisans & beautiful people! there is a lovely museum in the village that exhibits many traditional items used throughout Korean history. i will have to contact my teacher to remember its name, then i will post it here.

it was a busy weekend as we dyed three colours; yellow (tumeric), purple (an insect casing, cochineal?) & a burnt orange (immature persimmon). as with the other posts on dyeing, these fun-filled days were a good couple of years ago, & very little English was spoken, so please bear with me as i pull my cerebral strings. i may have more detailed accounts which can be included someday, once i return to Canada, where my belongings & memories are in storage.

here's a peep at the day's events...

First Colour ~ Yellow (Turmeric)


for the dye bath, the bark was brought to boil & simmered for some time, until teacher deemed it ready. i can not recall if there was a mordant used, but the cloth turned out beautifully rich, so i'm guessing yes... with alum.


it was then strained onto a piece of muslin, which sits atop of a round flat basket for support, to drip.

Dryin' bark

i'm unsure if the bark is reusable, or what was done with it once it cooled.

Adding cloth to the yellow dye bath

again, the cloth is given a cold bath, & folded fan-style, to immerse it evenly into the water to prevent blotching.

Teacher's apprentice

The Yellow

Hangin' out

Second Colour ~ Burnt Orange ('Kam', persimmon)


persimmons picked from a nearby tree, were pounded in the mortar & pestle until much of their juice was released.

Smushing the 'kam'

the smushing process begun, the cotton cloth was rub into the raw pulverised fruit, squeezing the juice through the fabric,

More smushing

& continues, until the cloth is quite saturated with the starchy fruit.

each fibre of the fabric is well coated with all the squeezing.

Only the first layer of colour

not much colour is to be seen through the next few cycles. it takes much time & energy to create beautiful rich hues, therefore it is expensive to buy.

Soaking in the rays

once the fabric is coated, it is given time in the sun to enhance the depth of colour. without the sun, not much, if any, colour is ever realised. this process is repeated ad nauseam until the depth of desired colour is acheived.


ta da! almost there. perhaps a few more smushings & sun-bathings.

Third Colour ~ Purple (an insect casing)

Simmered Casings

Straining the Casings

The Casings

Purple Dye Bath

Adding textural designs

While the cloth was being dyed, marbles were inserted, & string was tightly wound around the fabric. once released, beautiful patterns emerged. this was cotton. though i have some ramie dyed in purple.

Drying in the sun

Fruit of the day's labour
at the end of the day, each of us receives a few pieces of cloth from each colour. the persimmon dyed cotton, however, was far from reaching an acceptable colour, but we each received a nice piece from the lady who collaborated with teacher to host the workshop. a few of us then took our beloved pieces to a traditional shoe maker.

Traditional Korean shoes

in fact, i had enough material for two pairs. these shoes are worn with my traditional dress, the 'hanbok'. my shoes are in canada at present. though quite different from those above, this is the general idea... i will replace this with my own photo at some point.

A friendly spectator

while exploring the brush for a broader photographic perspective, i felt an indescribable presence in close vicinity, & was a bit ruffled to realise i had entered a congregation of many such creatures suspended in the foilage surrounding me.


Falovi said...

That's really interesting. Thanks for sharing!

dN said...

thanks. i love partaking in nature in this way, it's much like from garden to table.