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WHEN I COOK I TEND TO USE the recipe as a guide and intuitively judge proportions and combinations of ingredients. This method can lead to unexpected and intriguing results, although the downside is that they are rarely repeatable. I enjoy the physicality and spontaneity of the process – it’s similar to working with textiles. The boiling up of vegetable matter and the anticipation, especially if it is material one has grown and harvested, is similarly satisfying. In this issue we focus on natural dyes. Stephen Szczepanek introduces us to the alchemy of Sachio Yoshioka, pg 32, a master dyer whose skills have diverse applications from a Chanel lipstick to religious artifacts.
In mediaeval societies it was the men who were the embroiderers, weavers and dyers. By accident rather than design we have filled our issue devoted to colour and dye with men! We look at three men who work with fabric: David Weir, the Director of the Dovecot in Edinburgh, pg 68; Mark Pollack in New York, pg 66; and Nigel Atkinson in London, pg 64. We also feature the work of several talented Japanese men, including Yohji Yamamoto and Akihiko Izukura.
If one were to do a poll of the general population and enquire what was their favourite colour, chances are the overwhelming response would be blue. There is something about blue that calms the soul, and of all blues indigo has a special charm. Pulling yarn from a vat of indigo and watching it turn from acid yellow through green to turquoise and then to the richest of blues is just about as close to magic as one can get. Gracie Burnett experienced that beauty in a corner of China, pg 52. Of course indigo is not the only blue, and Jenny Balfour-Paul reminds us of the rich European tradition that surrounds the production of woad, pg 44. Of equal importance in the ancient world was madder, now used in the furnishing fabrics of Les Indiennes, pg 48, and put to an unexpected use in the dyeing of cricket balls.
All of the books and exhibition catalogues referred to in this issue are available at the selvedge bookshop – please see our extended stock at www.selvedge.org. If there is anything you would like that we don’t stock, please let us know and we will do our best to track it down.
Polly Leonard, Editor
We asked our contributors to tell us about their favourite textile recipe.......
GRACIE BURNETT pg 66
SHARRON MARCUS pg 90
JENNY BALFOUR-PAUL pg 44
Next time you find youself chopping onions put on an extra pan of water for the skins. Boil them hard for 45 minutes and then remove the skins, add some natural fiber or fabric, and keep simmering. You will end up with a vibrant yellow. Overdyeing with indigo creates an infinite variety of green, from the palest sap to a strong emerald.
I don't use recipes much but work extemporaneously with naturally colored vegetable fibers. I soak a wet textile in various highly concentrated teas in order to modify its color. Then I may work back into it with natural mineral pigments and/or graphite diluted in water, applied as a light stain or wash. Using thin coats over and over gives control over the final result.
My favourite method of indigodyeing, which I call ‘Aqualeaf Indigo’, creates gorgeous turquoise colours. Liquidise dew-covered fresh leaves of woad or ‘Japanese indigo’ with cold water, sieve the liquid and dip into it fine silk or wool for several minutes. Rinse in cold water and hang out to dry. A magical way of conjuring colour from nature.