Älska Go Indigo : Yunnan
Posted on 13 July 2015
Tradition is made of pieces of days gone by. It is a chain of stories to remind the now of what once was, a kinship passed down from one generation to the next. Above all, tradition is the backbone of a nation. It can take many forms, but in most parts of Asia, tradition takes the form of fabric.
A sheet of fabric can hold many stories within each thread. Something as simple as the color indigo blue, holds the key to many cultures’ identity. We at Älska have been on a journey to discover the many stories of indigo, and we would like to share with you what we have found. We wish to spread our newfound knowledge, so that the slowly disappearing pieces of tradition may gain new breath and live on. Let us take you first to the wonderful Bai people of Yunnan.
Yunnan is a province of China near Kunming. It is a quaint place filled with artisans. The Bai people residing in Yunnan are masters of creating art with fabric. When we arrived, we were greeted with winding alleys filled with swaying sheets bearing intricate patterns all along the walls. The masters responsible for this art sits close by, working on a new masterpiece in their hands.
A group of elders, most of them women, spend their days manipulating dyes and fabrics to create wonders of indigo. Among their colorful creations, these striking blues immediately catch the eye and the heart. Various techniques inherited from mothers and grandmothers are used, such as tie-dying, stenciling, and wax-painting. The Bai people are among the first to use these techniques. The wax-painting technique reminds us of our very own traditional Batik.
But the technique which captivated us the most, was their exquisite mastery of tie-dye. A sheet of fabric is pinched and tied all over with pieces of string in a pattern known only to the maker. Once it is dipped in a dye bath, washed, and then dried in the sun, only then will the pattern appear in all its glory. Faded edges and blurred lines are the signature characteristics of this technique, which only adds to its charm.
The fabrics created with these techniques are both beautiful and functional, and the intricate patterns are meant to bring luck to the home. This artful piece of history was made with care and, most importantly, made with the deepest love. We brought our favorite Yunnan indigo pieces to share with you, find them here and bring a bit of the Bai people’s love to your own home.