Unfortunately my research into dye plants has come to an end. I would like to finish off this blog for No Serial Number by talking about my original inspiration into why I decided to look into dye plants for my Master’s Thesis.
On a trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall UK, I was fortunate enough to speak to a very informative lady, Carla Wentink, who works at the Eden Project and specialises in dye plants. She decided to speak about something called ‘Ayurvastra’.
Ayurvastra is a term that has been coined by the Handloom Weavers Development Society in Kerala, India. It involves the use of medicinal Ayurvedic plants that are used as dyes, creating a therapeutic cloth/fabric. I was absolutely fascinated by this, most probably due to my interest in holistic health but more so because it combined my interest in dye plants.
The practice of using medicinal plants as dyes is not something new. It has been used within indigenous and ancient cultures for many years. The use of them in this way now comes as a form of cultural revitalization. I believe that such a practice has huge potential. The fabric that this society produce is organic and the way they dye with the Ayurvedic plants is a long and careful process. But the result is beautifully coloured, therapeutic pieces of fabric that can be used for bed sheets, sleep garments and even yoga mats.
The compounds that produce colour in dye plants also have therapeutic qualities. The idea of utilising both of these properties is something quite extraordinary. My thoughts about it even extended to possible cosmetic use. Skin healing lipstick and blusher ladies?
For those that read my last entry I talked about the coming together of science and traditional knowledge. The same applies with Ayurvastra. The science behind this potentiality is still under-researched. How well do these plants absorb into the skin? How long does the garment have to be in contact with the skin for it to be beneficial? Are there precise amounts of dye plants that need to be used? Does washing the garment wash away the plant compounds? All of these questions were rushing through my mind. I attempted some searches online and nothing has yet appeared. Please do get in touch if you find anything yourself!
This served as my initial inspiration into researching natural dyes. Unfortunately I was unable to have funds to investigate this further in Kerala, so my research remained mostly within the UK.
My research concluded with the summary of points as to who, how, why and where the resurgence of natural dyes is taking place within the developed Northern regions of the world. The resurgence can be loosely defined by those that have been inspired and motivated by events in their lives that have led them to utilising natural dyes beyond craft and hobby purposes. The resurgence has its roots in environmental movements but travelling to countries where natural dyeing is still being used and kept alive was another key observation from the people of the participants involved. I concluded with the idea of looking to traditional knowledge of our past in order to formulate solutions to our future. I added the prophecy of The Eagle and the Condor into my discussion which served to support the coming together of the male led, logical, mathematical and scientific mind with the female, curvaceous, random and spiritual led thinking (if you would like to read about this prophecy further I will put a link at the end of this- I highly recommend it, it is fascinating). With this combination we are able to adapt to changes in our environment and I believe that the revitalisation of natural dyes serves us an advantage in this way.
I thought I would choose this entry as my closing piece. My life is taking me in a different direction now, and I will be writing more so about that. My experience in my degree and especially in the last months where I met the many inspirational people for my dye plant project have really allowed me to make transformational changes in my life. I hope to talk about these further in my blog entries if it of interest to anyone please keep following!
My interests are heading towards Ayurveda and holistic health, so I may end up investigating the information from this blog entry further and you may hear from me again!
Connect with Naina through her Blog, where she will also blog about health, beauty and natural alternatives