Recently I visited Rowland and Chinami Ricketts in their studio in Bloomington, Indiana , where Rowland is an assistant professor on the textiles faculty in the School of Fine Arts.
“Rowland and Chinami Ricketts use natural materials and traditional processes to create contemporary textiles. Chinami hand-weaves narrow width yardage for kimono and obi. Rowland hand-dyes textiles that span art and design. Together we grow all the indigo that colors our cloth, investing ourselves and our time in our textiles because we believe this way of working to be an essential part of the material’s integrity and authenticity.”http://www.rickettsindigo.com/
Chinami is a weaver, creating cloth from hand dyed yarns in the traditional way, in widths suitable for making kimonos. She and Rowland have designed a line of table runners ,wall hangings, and room dividers that recently were awarded by The Martha Stuart American Made craft competition:http://www.marthastewart.com/americanmade/nominee/93030/crafts/ricketts-indigo
Sample swaths. Rowland emphasized the importance of testing the variables, recording details, and being consistent in the process.
The vat is alive.
I’ve looked at many batik colored with natural dyes, and often the results are somewhat dull and flat. When I saw this one by my colleague, Mas Solikhin Ahmad of Pekalongan on the north coast of Java, I jumped for joy at the liveliness of the color, all derived from natural sources, including indigo. The colors are unusually defined and distinct, not muddied at all, which is quite a feat. What also makes this batik outstanding is the composition. Although I am getting a bit bored with the butterfly fixation many batikers have right now, the color and overall design of this one makes it truly outstanding.
Instead of applying the wax by hand with the canting, the wax resist is applied with a stamp made of copper, called a cap (tchap). The dye is indigo.
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I tried my hand at using the canting to write with wax but it is a long and difficult process. My friend Asif suggested that I ask his friend who is a skilled tukang cap to make a “Love”stamp. I was skeptical that it could be done. Having never seen how a stamp, called a cap (pronounced tchap), is made, I was amazed at the skill and craftsmanship that goes into it. Here are some photos of the process.
What a joy to visit these lovely artisans in Kebon, Klaten, Central Java. Their work is beautiful and their spirit spirit is inspiring. They are a collective (kelompok) of 169 women from a group of small villages who have joined together, pooling their resources to make batik using only natural ingredients gathered locally to color their creations.
My friend and colleague, Solikhin , has been working very hard over the past three years since I saw him last. Still focused on indigo, never finding an easy solution by way of chemical dye, Solikhin has come a long way toward opening up the richness and versatility of indigo.
This is an example of the colors he derives by overdyeing with other natural vegetable dyes on a cloth that is first dyed with indigo.
Solikhin creates his own designs and does his own coloring. He does however rely on some very skilled artisans to apply the wax to the cloth.
This cloth is colored with indigo and overdyed with jelawe the fruit of a certain tree.
The natural color of the silk threads from the cocoons of wild silkworms vary in color as the result of what they eat. Domestic silkworms, Bombix mori, prefer the leaves of the white mulberry http://www.designboom.com/history/silk1.html, but they will eat other types of mulberry leaves such as those from the red mulberry or black mulberry tree. Domestic silkworms will also eat the leaves of the osage orange http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osage_orange. Silkworms found in the wild however have adapted to eating particular kinds of leaves, and they produce a silk thread that is much different from the silkworms that are cultivated domestically.
The Cricula can be found in the wild eating the leaves of the kedondong tree, and those of the avocado tree. It also eats the leaves of the mango tree the cashew nut tree, and almond tree. It produces a beautiful golden thread that is very strong and has a unique thick to thin texture that gives the cloth woven from it an incredibly luxurious hand. The color of the filament varies from cream to rich golden hues, the darkest outside to the lightest inside the cocoon. The naturally variegated color is very durable and when woven produces a subtle variation in color that any master weaver would envy. (below) The other type of wild silk is from the amazingly beauitiful Atacus atlas Linn silkmoth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r9Laslf4hcIt . produces a cocoon that has a thread similar to the Cricula tritenestrata but in varying shades of cream to dark brown. It eats the leaves of the sirsak, keben, gempol, mahogony, rambutan, kedondong, avocado, and guava.
I recently visited Pak Endro Kuswardjo in Yogyakarta who started working with wild silk over ten years ago. He has developed a unique relationship with wild silk producers in West Java to provide his workshop, Tugu Mas Yogya, with the very finest wild silk from which his master weavers can make scarves and shawls. The silk is rare and costly, so he produces a very limited number. I was fortunate to visit on a day that he had just brought in a new supply, so there will be some wonderful examples of his silk scarves and shawls woven from wild silk available in the special exhibition “Sutera” during The Language of Cloth annual winter pop-up shop in december in San Francisco. http://www.thelanguageofcloth.com/pop-up-shop-dec-2013
Tulis literally translated means “written” , so batik tulis is batik that is drawn or written, by hand. The canting is the pen used for “writing” batik tulis. Melted wax is the ink.The canting is a subtle tool and requires patience and practice to master. My application of those two principles is beginning to show results. I hope eventually to use the canting as freely and expressively as I use a pen. These are photographs of some scarves waxed with written words. The cloth is a hand woven raw silk from Phnom Sruk Province in Cambodia, and it has already been dyed once in vegetable dyes. it will be over dyed again with indigo to produce various shades of blue, grey, and green.
The scarves will serve as prayer banners, mantras, prayer shawls, or altar cloths.