Spring was slowly giving way to the next season as was evident from the rustling of the leaves under our feet. The group had scampered around – some seen bending over leaves on the ground, some standing tall to wriggle off a few flowers from the branches and some carefully scrutinising a pebble. We were off to a curious and an interesting start at Aranya – a Natural Dyes and Design workshop in the midst of wildlife at Kanha National Park.
Fabrics and design may not evoke any association with tigers, but they share a deep connection with the natural surroundings. Nature not only inspires creativity, and brilliant ideas, but turns out that it’s also a warehouse of natural dyes! Aranya was a step towards understanding the myriad applications of natural dye. It set us thinking on how we could replace chemical colours with a bio-degradable solution. (Yes, that’s possible!)
Colours and Imprints
Laden with the choicest floral varieties, tree barks, leaves of all sizes, colours and textures, we excitedly made our way back to the workshop venue, where Arun our facilitator would demonstrate a simple but powerful printing technique. Some of us didn’t hesitate to pick large pebbles, but the surprising find was snail shells! It was only later that we realised that the textures and patterns on these artifacts would serve as design imprints too, in addition to lending colours and shapes.
The first task was to choose artifacts as per the print design in mind and soak them in a bowl of vinegar-ed solution. These had to remain in the solution for about 15-20 mins, in order to fix the colour. Earlier in the day, we had started off with a “circle time” where all of us gathered for the first time for a brief introduction. Standing in a circle and holding hands, Namrata our moderator initiated a simple hand squeeze exercise for the friendly vibe and energy to travel around. It was a circle of a homogenous group of people from as close as Bhopal and as far as Chennai and Kolkata, which now stood huddled to place their little treasures in the solution. It soon came to resemble a community bowl and a colourful coming together of the group. A pure white georgette silk fabric chosen for the exercise had to be rinsed in an RFD solution that included cow dung and alum. After drying, it was ready to be “printed”. The flaming tesus and heady mohuas were brought out and onto the fabric. The peepal leaves with its venous strains and the stained pebbles promised to bring out earthy tones and not to mention the dual toned leaves that were to create a twin effect. The snail shells now felt like a treasured find indeed. The benign whites and yellows were dipped in coloured solution (red, yellow and indigo) before being used.
The next step was to place a twig at one end of the fabric and roll it tightly into cloth bundle. After securing the bundle with twine, these went into a pan of boiling hot water. A few hours later when these were taken off and untied, it was sight to behold! Nature’s bounty had left colourful imrpints and patterns.
More Inspiration from Nature
Ghana was our facilitator for the evening session. She brought out another creative connection with nature. Following her instructions, we were once again on foot, looking around this time for that one thing that interested us the most. It could be anything simple or outrageous but realistic enough to draw on paper! A small section f this drawing (that could serve as a probable design) was to be sketched on to a graph paper. After tracing this on a soft cut-out followed by meticulous grafting it was now ready to serve as a stencil for printing. It was the day of revelations as we understood nature as a bountiful source.
The next day we ventured deeper into the forest on a safari. The tiger was elusive barring for one group that was lucky to spot both a leopard and a tiger. But for the next four hours we were in complete tune with the sounds and sights of the forest. The pristine and serene surroundings are the best treat one can ask for.
On the third and day of grand finale, the jungle mood and the collective vibe was captured on a wall painting. Once again led by Ghana, there was picturesque jungle scene, a small piece painted by each one of us using only the natural colours. We all had left a little piece of us in the precincts of Kanha.
All members of the workshop would like to thank Sanjay Shukla, Field Director of Kanha National Park for making this visit fruitful and hospitable.
True Tone is the company that cooks herbal or natural dye recipes for craft and industry level use. Besides this, they sell natural dyed fabrics and do job work dyeing as well. Arun is the patent holder of the herbal dyeing process who has standardised natural dyes.
He is a passionate environmentalist and is working to replace chemical dye with natural ones. He will be guiding the dye extraction and dyeing process.
Art Compassion is a community art movement who help create, curate and collaborate art. It works with multiple artists and facilitate such sessions. It will guide the aesthetic expressions and exploration in the workshop. Ghana is the co-founder, a compassionate artist and textile designer.
Biome is a living dream towards a sustainable future. It is a product and movement. Product is natural dyed collection of organic and hand-woven clothing. And movement is awareness interactions, seminar with school children and natural dyeing workshops to learn about sustainability in textiles.
Namrata is the founder and ethical designer at Biome.