Search for an Alternative to corporate job
Rajashree Soneji shared her journey of exploring natural dyes and her experience about a workshop which she attended in the spring. “I never wanted to do an eight hour job when I completed my college”, says Rajashree. So she started searching for alternatives in the textile field. Her mother introduced her to natural dyes. There. was no going back after that.
Fascinated by the Process
Rajashree stepped into the world of fabrics and natural dyes. The process was fascinating. To learn more, she visited Magan Khadi and Gram Sewa Mandal, in Wardha. Dedication of craftsmen to thier place of work and their craftsmanship impressed her. She discovered a variety of craft traditions, passed on from one generation to another.
Inspired the beauty of the process and overall cheerful vibe at the place, she began learning and practicing natural dyeing and meeting new people. When people shared their anecdotes, it was an overwhelming experience for her.
The Legacy of Natural Dyes
Since time immemorial, natural dyeing has been more than an art. For many, it has been a source of livelihood. The climate in India makes the process easier and favourable for the artisans. As does the availability of raw materials such as indigo, madder, pomegranate peel, and marigold flowers. The tone of the dye produced depends on the quantity of water, base material mordant and dye concentrations. With time, the colour fades, but that is a sign of exuberance.
To further her knowldedge about natural dyes, Rajashree attended a workshop at Bhasha Research and Publication Center in southern Gujarat in the spring of 2021. She learnt about the processes involved in natural dyeing. Scouring gave her an opportunity to experiment with a variety of natural materials. Rajashree worked with flowers, barks, roots. And with lac, a resin like secretion of lac insects. These insects are bred on trees.
“It’s quite interesting as every artisan has his/her own technique to follow. The shades which we collected had a wide range from bright to dark”, she added.
Natural Dyes and the Joy of Discovery
She also tried innovative methods such as shibori techniques and eco printing. Working with natural dyes on actual fabrics, she discovered that many of the dyes give good intensity of color to the fabric while some don’t.
Rajashree specially mentioned her experience with indigo. Last year, Rajashree grew Indigo on her own farm, so she aspired to learn the vat-making process. Learning the process from the experts was quite a thrill for her. Finally, their hard work paid off together they made three indigo vats. Each time anybody dipped their hands in the vat, it would leave a deep and beautiful stain. She personally preferred not wearing gloves as indigo gave her a sense of familiarity and belongingness. Rajashree and team documented these experiments. This was necessary as in natural dyeing hues and colors change significantly even if there is a slight change in process.
Joy of Accomplicing
The joy of accomplishing was on surge for her when the end results were beautifully dyed and vibrantly shining fibers.
Apart from the workshop, living in small quarters with the other group members was a rare and wonderful experience. Delicious meals, long walks through hidden caves engraved with tribal paintings, exploring tribal museums, visiting indigo fields and endless discussions added to the experience.
Rajashree had an amazing time at natural fabric/yarn dyeing workshop. She expresses an immense gratitude towards people who were directly or indirectly involved in it.
Rajashree has always had an inclinaion towards organic food, organic farming, and wearing naturally dyed Khadi clothes. Lifestyle choices which have changed her perspective towards life and made it more meaningful.
Concluding her narrative, Rajashree remarked, “Life’s journey is all about learning from every spirit of nature.”
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As Narrated to Swapnaja Dalvi
Blog Editor: Vaishnavi Kench
Photo Credit: Rajashree Soneji