Tag Archives: natural dyes and pigments

Natural Dyes and Processes – India’s Story


Turban cloth – Victoria & Albert Museum ©

I was looking for various textiles that have been prepared by hand and I was particularly interested in natural dyes and its processes. I found this great article in Victoria and Albert Museum called “The Fabric of India: Nature & Making”. 

These are some of the short film clips and a paragraph on the dying process. If you are interested, read the full article on the museum’s website.

India’s natural dyes, especially those for blue and red, have been renowned for millennia. Blue dye was so closely associated with India that the ancient Greeks took its western name – indikos (indigo) – from the country itself. Red dyeing with fixing agents (mordants) was known to the Indus valley civilisation by about 2500 BC.

Fixing the colour is the great challenge of dyeing cloth. Indian dyers’ use of mordants was key to their expertise, which was unrivalled until the invention of western chemical dyes in the 19th century. It is this wealth and mastery of bright and lasting natural dyes that perhaps best distinguishes India’s textile heritage.

Re-visit the Accidental Artwork

Dear friends, I am away from this blog for an assignment. I will be back with loads of stories – I promise. My son Nathan said he may cover the blog for me while I’m gone. He somewhat likes the Mondays Finish the Story fiction challenge and the Cool Stuff. I hope it is not like when he says he would do the dishes and then I find them in the sink when I come home. Jokes aside, don’t despair if you don’t see a post in the next couple of weeks, just think of all the stories I will be telling you when I return. Besides, Nathan may surprise all of us with one of his tales.

In this post before I go, I wanted to revisit the accidental artwork. If you have been wondering what happened to the work I pressed – this was the result when I ‘harvested’ it a few days ago.


I set with leaves and natural dyes in an earlier post (The Accident Artwork – Art Experiments). After three weeks of moist disintegration of leaf fibres on paper with tea, coffee and garden dyes, the work was totally unexpected.

In the work above and below, I used Acacia leaves with tea and other boiled leaves.


In the next two work below, I used coffee and gum leaves. This is what rotten gum leaves look like on paper. The liquid is quite thick and can really stain.


I am thinking of trying the mixture to stain wood furniture next time.


I also would like to wish all Papua New Guineans a Happy 40th Independence Day today – 16th September.





The Accidental Artwork – Art Experiments

Photo: Gums Leaves in Little Ruby plant dye on watercolour paper. 2015. JK.Leahy©

I love the accidental artwork. That’s why I enjoy art experiments.

I set out to do another art experiment in my garden this morning. It was a beautiful day for it. I ended up accidentally shooting the leaves intended for my experiment in another artwork, totally unplanned. The accident in the experiment looked too interesting to not photograph.

Photo: Acacia leaves (and one gum leaf) in tea on watercolour paper. 2015. JK.Leahy©
Photo: Acacia leaves in tea on watercolour paper. 2015. JK.Leahy©








After laying out the materials, I applied water and dyes. Then, I pinned everything down with glass. I noticed reflections and water bubbles sneaking into my work. They had their own colour and shadows. That was when my artwork plan changed. It was the experiment that came out of another experiment, the kind  of ‘accident’,  we artists love. Something you did not expect, never meant to or planned to create but it becomes yours. A gift from the universe.

Photo: Gums leaves in Little Ruby dye on watercolour paper. 2015. JK.Leahy©
Photo: Gums Leaves in Coffee and Tea on watercolour paper. 2015. JK.Leahy©









The images were shot with a Nikon D5200 using both macro and 18-55mm lenses. We shall re-visit the work, after all the water dries up in a few days. Thank you for reading about my experiments, please let me know what you think of my accidental artwork in the images.