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©2019 arunima choudhury, all rights reserved

The art of making vegetable dyes is one of the oldest knowledge known to human culture and dates back to the dawn of Civilization. South East Asia has an age old tradition of vegetable colors and its application on textiles, fabrics, murals and on various offshoots of Indian folk paintings as well. In India, with its variety of natural resources and rare species of flora and fauna, vegetable dye was used for painting and coloring of fabrics expertise in vegetable dyes dates back to ancient times. Many cave paintings such as Bhimbhetka and later Ajanta murals are the clear examples of that.

With the traditional knowledge to extract colors from plants and gradual development of their application have resulted into a highly refined art. These vegetable colors are obtained from various flowers, leaves, fruits, stems, roots and barks of trees like madder, catechu, indigo, myrobalan, blackberry seed, lac dye etc. There are more than 450 plants have been recognized as dyes .Use of mordant like Alum, Copper Sulphate, Ferrous Sulphate or iron dust and organic glue is an integral part of the process. Mordant work as catalyst and change color and fasten onto cloth and paper. In recent days the inherent advantages of vegetable dyes have resulted in the revival and use of vegetable dyes on fabrics and handmade paper.

Since 2006 I have been experimenting with vegetable colors on handmade paper and felt its immense joy and possibilities as a perfect medium of creative expression. Use of vegetable colors for me is not merely a new medium but a new kind of language that allows palpability and organic feel to the painted images. It further opens up the most stimulating space to explore deep down the world of nature which allows itself to connect to the world of human experience. Over the years I have discovered that the expressive and emotive quality thus achieved in an almost timeless presence are deeply ingrained in the quality of vegetable color itself, to a great extent. Presently I have been trying to apply on fabric.

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