Monday, 16 September 2013

The Halfway Point

I have now reached the half-way point in my residency and I can't believe how quickly time has flown.
The other artists and I have been enjoying each other's company on trips to the local night markets, a lunch at the "big house"with Hijjas, and impromptu artist talks in each of our studios.  Here is a photo I took at the night markets of some quirky beans called  petai  or stink beans.

 Rows of petai (Parkia speciosa)
These stink beans are best combined with other strong flavours such as garlic, chill or belacan.

I was in KL for two days this week to attend a talk at the Muzium Textil Negara by Eddie Yap, a batik and shibori artist and one of the judges for this years Piala Seri Endon batik design competition.

After living the quiet life in rural Jalan Kuang, KL seemed like complete chaos - construction works going on everywhere, traffic, haze, tikus, and the ubiquitous golden arches.  So not like our wonderful warung across the road from us at Rimbun Dahan (see previous posts).
At the Bukit Bintang junction, KL.

Unfortunately Eddie's presentation had to be cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances, so I missed meeting and talking to members of the Sahabat Textile group.  Instead I had another look around the Muzium and photographed this example of batik coloured with the natural dyes from "pearl water, mangrove bark, rambutan skin and mangosteen skin".

I could not find a credit for the maker of this naturally-dyed ensemble.
I also had dinner with two well-known locals who both collect songket (amongst other textiles and objects). Datin Noor Azlina Yunus also happens to be the author of two amazing textile books - 'Songket Revolution' (ISBN 9789834439804) and 'Malaysian Batik: Reinventing a Tradition' (ISBN-10: 080484264), for those who wish to find out more about these Malaysian textiles. 

And of course, when in KL.....the way to relax those tired feet is to get them massaged by fish!
Not for the ticklish!
I was glad to get back to Rimbun Dahan as I have plenty of work to be getting on with. I have just mordanted several metres of plain silk with two different mordants: Symplocos and Potassium Aluminium Sulphate.  Although these are both aluminium mordants, the Symplocos is derived from a plant that grows in Indonesia and is a natural bio-accumulator of aluminium.  I am testing to see whether it provides a stronger colour once dyed in comparison to the PAS. The Symplocos comes in ground form and I boiled it up in rainwater for half an hour before mordanting the fabric in it.
Preparing the Symplocos for mordanting fabric
After boiling for half an hour the Symplocos falls to the bottom of the pot and you can then add your fabric.  In future I will put the Symplocos into a dye-bag like I do with other vegetable matter as it is hard to get the little gritty bits off your fabric even after several rinses. The Symplocos turns the fabrics a shade of yellow, which indicates the fabric is mordanted.  This will disappear once dyed, and does not interact with the colour produced by your dyebath. 

My first samples are dyed with areca nuts, the fruit of the Pinang palm tree, Areca catechu, which grows in Angela's taman sari (vege garden).These are very important in many Asian cultures, as they are chewed with betel leaf and lime. According to Wikipedia the extract also has antidepressant properties in rodents....know wonder our tikus here are so lively!

The nut itself is found inside a fleshy orange/red fruit, and is incredibly hard to crack open.  Here is my dyepot showing the colour coming from the nuts inside the dye-bag.  They look like segments of orange the way I have broken them but they are really very hard.
Areca nuts boiled for an hour in rain water. A white piece of silk to show true colour.
Here are my first samples dyed with Areca nuts, not yet dry.
Although they are still wet, the difference between the two mordants on the same fabric type is not glaringly obvious, so I will post my results and findings next week.

 sehingga minggu depan,

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