Get­ting a feel for dye­ing at Made in Myan­mar ex­hi­bi­tion

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - NYO ME

ny­ome@myan­mar­times.com.mm

YOU walk in, and the first thing you sense is the smell of cot­ton. All around you, piles of cot­ton fab­ric, mos­quito nets, ac­ces­sories and bags form a maze of hand­i­crafts, and pro­fes­sional weavers work their looms in the cor­ner. Wel­come to Made in Myan­mar 3 – an art ex­hi­bi­tion like no other.

In­stead of fea­tur­ing or­di­nary paint­ings on can­vas, so­cial en­ter­prise Sun­flow­ers Group is cur­rently show­ing art cre­ated by tra­di­tional tex­tile meth­ods.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, held through Oc­to­ber 13 at Lokanat Gallery, is the third it­er­a­tion of a show that be­gan in 2013.

“Peo­ple nor­mally think that hand­i­crafts don’t qual­ify as art,” said or­gan­iser Phyu Ei Thein. “I want to change their mind­sets with this ex­hi­bi­tion.”

She be­lieves that tra­di­tional weav­ing en­ter­prises, like those fea­tured in Made in Myan­mar, are grad­u­ally fad­ing out of prac­tice.

“I would like to en­cour­age the pro­fes­sional weavers,” she added.

And vis­i­tors too – on my trip to the gallery, I had a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence tie-dy­ing with some of the ex­perts on hand.

Us­ing white T-shirts and scarves, stu­dents from Saun­ders’ Weav­ing and Vo­ca­tional In­sti­tute showed me how to de­sign my own T-shirt.

First, I tied a hand­ful of mar­bles along the cor­ner of the shirt’s v-neck col­lar with string, form­ing a sort of neck­lace. Then I left the tied-up shirt to soak in wa­ter overnight.

The next day, I mixed nwe war (a root-like plant) and yay pu tone (a leafy plant) in boil­ing wa­ter for 30 min­utes. Ac­cord­ing to my guides, the re­sult­ing mix­ture would en­able a sil­very colour for my de­sign, so I squeezed out the first day’s wa­ter from my T-shirt and soaked it in the boil­ing bucket of coloured wa­ter.

The ex­hi­bi­tion pro­vided me three gloves – cloth, plas­tic and rub­ber – to wear on each hand dur­ing this stage.

Once the shirt had soaked in the dye, I sank it into a mix­ture of lime, su­gar and rusted iron in or­der to help the colour set in.

Un­for­tu­nately, the colour came out more grey than sil­ver, but I wasn’t too up­set – after wash­ing with wa­ter and un­ty­ing the strings, I dis­cov­ered that the mar­bles had en­abled per­fect lit­tle white cir­cles around the neck­line. Just like I planned.

Fel­low visi­tor Saw Mon Theint, who works with the Bam­boo Lovers Net­work, said the ex­pe­ri­en­tial ex­hi­bi­tion is a good idea for younger gen­er­a­tions, who are of­ten un­fa­mil­iar with hand­made goods.

“Most of them use im­ported clothes from China and don’t know about nat­u­ral dye­ing pro­cesses,” Saw Mon Theint said. “Un­like chem­i­cal dye­ing, nat­u­ral dye­ing is made with bits of trees – such as leaves and bark – and does not cause en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion.”

She did point out, how­ever, that hand­made goods can stretch the re­la­tion­ship be­tween qual­ity and price, and said that she prefers to pay a fixed price.

“I liked the weav­ing cot­ton cloth [K5000 per yard] but I found lots of warps in the weav­ing,” she said.

A tra­di­tional weaver demon­strates her craft at the ex­hibit, hosted by Lokanat Gallery. The ex­hibit runs through Oc­to­ber 13.

Pho­tos: Nyo Me

A visi­tor at the Made In Myan­mar 3 ex­hibit squeezes wa­ter from a dyed shirt dur­ing a tie-dye­ing demon­stra­tion.

Tra­di­tional Myan­mar dye­ing uses plants such as nwe war (above) and yay pu tone (be­low) to cre­ate vi­brant colours.

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