Safflower dyeing with Kazuki Yamakazi

Safflower is an interesting dye because it contains both red and yellow dyes so, depending on the fabric and pH, it produces different colours. Apparently it takes 400 square metres of safflower plants to produce 1kg of petals.

There’s a section on safflower dyeing in Jenny Dean’s book Wild Color, which explains the methodology. ESP and I tried this out last year, using a pack of dried safflower we bought in Malaysia, but it wasn’t very successful.

So ESP was dispatched to this workshop at 10iss to find out how it should be done!

Dr Yamazaki of Kusaki-Kobo Dye Studio is descended from three generations of natural dyers and researchers in Japan. He started teaching and creating artwork with natural dyes in 1985 and has since been active in research and education of natural dyes in Japan and abroad.

Here’s a sample of the master dyers’ range of colours, including safflower, on very fine Japanese silk – how gorgeous are they?

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First the safflower petals are soaked overnight, squeezed, strained and removed. This dye turns alum-mordanted fabric yellow (better on silk than on cotton).

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The petals are washed to remove the yellow and soaked in an alkaline solution for two hours to extract the red dye. After straining and before adding the fabric, citric acid is added to neutralise the dye bath. Distinctive small bubbles form at this stage.

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If too much acid is added the red dye will start to precipitate out – sometimes this is done deliberately to extract the dye to use in cosmetics.

Silk added to this dye turns orange, while cotton turns red or dark pink.

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The difference in colour is because the red dye also contains a second yellow dye, which is absorbed by silk but not cotton. You can see in the photo below that the silk (top row) is more orange than the red cotton below.

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To get pink silk, you need to use cotton as a “dye bank” to absorb just the red dye and then extract it. At around pH4 the dye is locked into the cotton. If you then put the cotton into a bath of pH6-7 the dye is released from the cotton. Squeeze out the cotton and remove it from the dye bath before adding more citric acid. Then add the silk – you get bright pink!

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Japanese dyers might repeat the entire process six times to get intense colours into the dye bank.

The process doesn’t work well with wool, despite the fact that it is a protein fibre like silk. This is because wool needs to be heated to more than 30C to open the scales, but the pigment begins to break down at 30C, so you just get a pale pink.

Exhibitions at 10th International Shibori Symposium

The 10th International Shibori Symposium (10iss) in Oaxaca in November was spread over several venues. Most were in the centre of town, but the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CASA), about 45 minutes’ drive from the centre, was the location for many of the workshops and exhibitions.

This post will feature the exhibitions in and around CASA – be warned that there are lots of photos!

CASA is a former cotton mill that was converted into a stunning arts centre by local artist Francisco Toledo in 2000. Its hilltop location gives amazing views, and it has two exhibition halls and smaller rooms for running workshops.

Centro de las Artes de San Agustin Centro de las Artes de San Agustin

There are also some interesting sculptural plants!

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Indigo Earth: Shibori Kimono, Past and Present

This exhibition, curated by Yoshiko Nakamura and Consortium Arimatsu Narumi, featured a selection of historical and modern Japanese indigo-dyed kimono from Arimatsu and Narumi in Japan.

Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono

Optica and Haptica

This exhibition showcased 12 pieces of clothing designed by Mexican designer Carla Fernandez, highlighting connections between the Mexican and Japanese traditions of ikat (known as jaspe in Mexican and kasuri in Japan).

The contemporary garments were wonderful, combining Japanese silhouettes and designs with traditional Mexican rebozo patterns.

Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment

Contemporary Art of Shibori and Ikat

The main exhibition hall at CASA was given over to a wide range of contemporary shibori artworks and wearables, curated by Yoshiko Wada and Trine Ellitsgaard.

And here I must apologise profusely to artists whose work I photographed but whose names I failed to record. I did photograph the name labels but because of the low lighting many of them came out blurred and unreadable. I have credited artists whose names are legible or whom I remembered, but if your work is featured without a credit, do let me know and I will remedy it as soon as possible!

Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer
Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer

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Hiroyuki Shindo
Hiroyuki Shindo
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery

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Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3
Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3

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Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Jorie Johnson
Jorie Johnson

Paper Jewellery

A short walk downhill from CASA is the papermaking cooperative Arte Papel Vista Hermosa, also founded by Francisco Toledo. Its members use bark, plants, flowers, cotton, hemp, silk, linen and pieces of shiny mica in their products. As well as seeing the artisans at work, visitors can have a go at making paper themselves.

Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Arte Papel Vista Hermosa

For this exhibition they worked with artist Kiff Slemmons to produce some stunningly intricate paper jewellery. And yes – I did end up buying a piece! 🙂

Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa