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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Visit to a Master Dyer

January 23, 1987

I expected to see more colors - more pots of orange and yellow and blue. I expected to see colors externalized.

"No," Ami said. "He does not externalize his thoughts. He thinks of color, and colors, like you with your writings. They are not on the wall for everyone to see! That is why he keeps them in a small pile of samples, on silk. His life's work is in that small package of silk scraps."

. . . .

"A chemical color pinches the eye."

"The greatest problem is yellow. The chemical yellows are all very dangerous. Cancer, birth defects, very, very dangerous."

"Now I have been making yellow from pomegranate skins. This is a substance nobody wants. Even the cows won't eat it. But it makes the most beautiful yellow color."

"My paintings are all made with dyed bits of paper, glued together. They are all dyed by myself."

"Now you take the cow, you feed it nothing but mango leaves for two or three days. After this time you collect the cow's urine. You boil and boil this urine. You add alum, and reduce it to a paste. It produces the most lovely yellow color."

"Turmeric yellow is most beneficial to the skin. It cleanses the pores of dangerous bacteria. Chemical dyes, red and yellow particularly, attract bacteria. Turmeric is a purifying substance. Now which color would you rather wear, the natural or the chemical?"

"Now these are from the onion skin. Now look at this. This is the pomegranate. And this is banana."

"Indigo, when moist, gives off a pleasant perfume. For this reason it is preferred by peoples who live in areas where water is scarce. Their perspiration draws out the stronger perfume of the natural dye. Furthermore, such areas are usually very hot. The blue colors, and particularly indigo, repels the sunlight! So Indigo Blue is the favorite color of desert peoples."

"The Indigo leaves are put into a pot, with water. This ferments for three or four days. The leaves are then pounded for four or five hours. This releases the color, a dark green. Alum is added and the color s

ettles to the bottom. The surface water is skimmed off. The residue paste is filtered in cloth bags, all excess water allowed to slowly drip away. Then we spread it in pans, and allow it to dry in cakes."

"The color fasteners, the fixatives, the preparations, the sizings, all may be natural. The plant world is abundant in such natural chemicals."

"Now this is a mold. It grows on the tree."

"This is a germ, . . .  a bacteria."

"Dye from Jaggery, natural sugar cane, has a tendency of being very odorous. For this reason we must boil it with rusted iron for two or three hours. Even this may not remove the smell.

"Black is a very difficult color . . . we make it with Jaggary, and iron."

"Everything that has a color in the natural world has the potential to become a color we can use."

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