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RESIST: A World of Resist Dye Techniques

April 6, 2012 - June 9, 2013

Stager and Blum Galleries

| Sara Hume, Curator

Cultures around the world have developed an array of resist dye techniques. Dyeing provides rich colors but once the fabric has been colored in a dark shade, lighter color patterns will not show up. In order to allow lighter colors to come through, areas have to be blocked from receiving dye. Any of these techniques of blocking the dye are referred to as a “resist.” Sometimes these techniques have arisen independently; sometimes the techniques have been passed across cultures through trade and exchange. In many cases the origins have been lost to time, leaving only rich and remarkable textile traditions. Resist techniques can be seen in the most expensive and treasured textiles, but also in relatively humble objects.

The exhibition is organized by technique in order to bring together examples from around the globe. The objects are grouped into three main categories of resist methods: mechanical, chemical, and ikat. While specific techniques may vary widely, they rely on a few basic principles. The dye can be resisted using mechanical means by tying, stitching or folding. Alternately the resist can be chemical, generally paste or wax. The third category, ikat, refers to textiles in which the resist is applied to the threads before weaving. Ikat is generally a mechanical resist technique, in which the threads are wrapped and bound.

Mechanical resist

Shibori, bandhani, tie-dye

Tie-dye is a technique that has become familiar to many Americans because of brightly colored t-shirts popular in the 1960s and 70s. The technique of tying off sections of cloth or garments before treating it with dye has been around for centuries. Japan and India are among the many parts of the world with long traditions of tie-dye. While most of the examples of mechanical resist techniques in the collection are variations of tying and binding with thread, other methods such as clamping and pole-wrapping can also be used. While these techniques have been practiced for centuries and are performed by highly experienced artisans, there is always an element of randomness and chance to the results. The subtle variations in shade and pattern are intrinsic to the beauty of the handmade pieces.

Chemical resist

Batik, adire eleko, tsutsugaki, modrotlac

The use of paste or wax as a resist has developed in many cultures around the world. In the earliest forms, the patterns were created free hand by drawing the wax or paste onto the fabric. Such techniques can be seen in the finest Indonesian batiks and Japanese tsutsugaki. As textile printing developed, resists played a critical role in preventing dark colors from spreading into lighter areas. Several cultures developed techniques of printing the resist onto the fabric before dyeing. Achieving several colors on a textile demands repeated application of wax or paste before each submersion in the dye. Additional colors are created by overdyeing one color over another.

Ikat

Ikat, jaspe, adras, kasuri

The word ikat derives from the Indonesian verb menigikat, which means “to bind, tie or wind around.” Clearly the word first applied to Indonesian textiles, but has come to be the general term used to describe any textile made with this technique. The method involves wrapping yarn with a resist before dyeing. When such yarn is woven, the resulting textile will be patterned. The elaborate Central Asian and Indonesian examples required repeated binding and dyeing to achieve the variety of colors and intricacy of design. The patterns created in ikats will have a characteristic raggedness around the edges. The patterns can be created on the warp or the weft, or both. When both the warp and the weft are patterned, the resulting textile is a double ikat.

Ikat, batik, tie-dye, kasuri, tsutsugaki, adire, bandhani… Many different methods, one simple premise: creating patterns using dye.