Since ancient times leaves, roots, bark, and flowers have been used to colour fabrics. There are many natural dyeing techniques, wich used myriad plants, as countless as the cultures and peoples on Earth. These traditional knowledges, passed down through generations, are alive even now in countries like India, Japan, and Peru. In Brazil, there are plenty of dye plants and most of them are medicinal too. Even though the name Brazil comes from brazilwood, which is the tree from which we can extract a red pigment, these knowledges are disappearing in our country. Nowadays, there is a movement to rescue these traditions, which is fundamental, not only for the sustainable reasons, but mainly to strengthen our roots as a unique culture. Basically, I work with 2 techniques: the traditional natural dyeing and the botanical contact printing or eco-print.
Traditional natural dyeing
This is the oldest known technique to dye. I call it “Traditional natural dyeing” because we can find it in the millenary tradition of many cultures. There are countless receipts, which are specific for each plant and each tradition. But the principle is the same: the plant is boiling in water to extract the colour, and then, the fabric is dipping in this dyeing bath. A variety of mordants can be used to fix and modify the colour of the fabric (refer to glossary below).
Botanical contact printing or eco-print
Botanical contact printing is a natural dyeing technique that the dye plants are placed directly on a media support. The fabric is rolled to make a bundle – paper can be pressed – and it is placed in boiling water or steam. The plants´ pigments will be released on the fabric to create forms and colours. This process result is unpredictable: each piece of printed fabric is unique. It´s almost impossible to repeat the same print, which brings an enchantment to this technique. The name eco-print was created by India Flint, a textile artist who is attributed the invention of this process.
Cheek: Substance associated with dyeing with the specific function of maintaining color durability, providing greater resistance to washing and exposure to the sun. It can be of vegetable origin, such as tannin (a substance extracted from the bark of some plants) or mineral, such as alum (humid stone) or iron acetate.
Dyeing plants: Dying plants are considered all species that contain in one or more different parts (root, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds) high concentrations of coloring principles such as phenolic alcohols, tannins, flavonoids and anthraquinones.
Shibori: (in Japanese: 絞 り) is a Japanese manual dyeing technique that produces patterns on the fabric. The technique consists of sewing, folding, tying or attaching the fabric and then dipping it in dye; the tied or tied parts are not dyed.