All posts in “textiles”

Textiles with a life of their own: Parekh Bugbee at SAM Shop

We are obsessed with all things Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India! Even SAM Shop is getting in on it and is bringing second-generation Indian textile designer Parekh Bugbee for an in-store trunk show on December 8. We sat down with Payal Parekh Bugbee to discuss the tradition of textiles in her family, sustainability, and spectacular colors. See these beautiful scarves in person while you chat with the designer and sip on some complimentary chai courtesy of Jaipur Chai. drop by anytime between noon and 4 pm and get a jump on holiday shopping!

SAM: How did Parekh Bugbee first start and where does the name come from?

Payal Parekh Bugbee: The initial roots of Parekh Bugbee began in 2011 when I met my husband-to-be during a work trip to Thailand. He’s a photojournalist and also does projects for global health NGOs. I didn’t know how our relationship would blossom but before long he traveled to India to formally meet my father and ask for my hand in marriage. At the time, I’d returned from living in New York City where I did undergrad studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology and had re-located to Mumbai to train under my father. Since the 1960s, my father had worked on collections made for many international designers. These were big name, well-known design houses and they put their labels on everything produced, so at the end of the day customers really wouldn’t know that the pieces were initially designed and manufactured by him. To this day he is a very humble artisan and doesn’t mind. Growing up in India, I spent many years observing his print mastery and artisan skillset. As such, I developed a real zeal for a career in textiles.

Parekh Bugbee, is a combination of my maiden and married names, the fusing of East and West cultures merged into one company. The prints and textiles we make merge traditional and evergreen Indian designs with modern and contemporary motifs.

Have you always wanted to be involved in your family’s business?

In truth, I always had a gut feeling at a very early age that I was destined to carry forward what my father had created but the mystery was what precise form it would take. As a teenager in the early 90s, my parents sent me to New York City to join my elder sister to study and pursue a career. Photography initially grabbed me passionately and I became adamant that I wanted to be a fashion photographer. These skills later proved useful to document and promote my father’s textile works and that was personally rewarding. When I returned to India after college, I worked as a photographer shooting textiles. It was an interesting journey—in India, the boy children usually inherit the duties of a families business but my father never had a male offspring, so it was natural that he wanted his daughters to understand his industry and carry it forward.

After spending one month in the office agreeing to work with him, I realized that it was connected to so many lives and it gave so much back to everyone who was involved in producing these fine textiles. I came to understand it as an ecosystem within itself from concept to completion. Most of the artisans are from different cities and villages around India. In simple terms, the work and the skills they employ make it possible for their kids to have a good education, a solid home, and modest savings for the marriage of their children. My father over the years built apartment units on the acreage around the factory so the artisans and their families could live close. A mango orchard was planted not long ago and he started a sustainable organic garden as well. To look at the whole picture is necessary to understand what goes into making these textiles.

I understand Parekh Bugbee uses organic and natural dyes. How do you get the spectacular colors?

We have a long process for drying the fabrics. My father refers to it as ‘cooking the textiles.’ After the silkscreen printing process, which is accomplished by a meticulous application of layers upon layers of color, the fabrics are run through an extremely high-temperature steam and then dried in direct sunlight for at least two days. This direct sun exposure ensures best results for fastening the color onto each textile.

Do you see changes in the way textiles are produced in India that are considering environmental implications?

Textiles in Asia are a very large and complex industry and even in India there are many approaches to this art, but in our practice, we try our best to be very environmentally conscious. Our entire factory is made out of recycled materials—floor to ceiling—and for as long as I can remember my father has been all about ‘zero wastage’ when it comes to the production line. A while back he created a sophisticated water filtration system which essentially recycles all the water used in the textile printing process to eventually be used in the vegetable gardens.

All of the scarves are so beautiful! How many do you keep for your personal collection?

These textiles have a life of their own and a story behind them. I feel that with time they will only be more valuable as most wearable textiles are now produced cheaply by machine only. These are made by hand every step of the way. That is now rare. And that is why they will retain their special nature.

Honestly, I do have a very wide range of my favorite silk scarves and shawls. I  have them tucked away in a closet and someday it will be a great honor to pass them on to my child. I really believe that these textiles are not just mere pieces of fabrics, they are textile jewels that will never go out of fashion.

Images: Courtesy of Payal Parekh Bugbee
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SAM Creates: Bleu de Travail (working blues)

Get in the mood for Summer at SAM open studio sessions with this short video by artist and videographer, Rachael Lang featuring a hand-dyed Isvald Indigo dress and the whimsical evening sky of Seattle.

Every Saturday in July you can learn to dye fabrics with Izzie Klingels at the Olympic Sculpture Park. These interactive open studio hours explore traditional methods of indigo dyeing using natural, organic indigo to create a communal installation celebrating indigo and indigo workers.

“It’s such a multi-dimensional dye, with luminance and depth that you don’t find with other dyes,” Izzie Klingels told City Arts Magazine in a 2015 article on her hand-dyed clothing line, Isvald Indigo. Using repurposed clothing typically sourced from thrift stores, Klingels clothing line is the most recent of her many endeavors which have included illustration, video, branding, and nail art to name a few.

“My style is loose and experimental,” she says. “You stitch or tie a design and you don’t really know how it will look exactly until you untie it.” Be prepared to bring a sense of experimentation to the Sculpture Park as you create pieces for the installation. Inspired by Mood Indigo: Textiles from Around the World on view at the Asian Art Museum through October 9, we’re sharing the unique abilities of blue to evoke moods by offering a way to become intimate with the process of dyeing using indigo.

Indigo-bearing plants have had a huge impact on our visual world. Once artists discovered plants containing the gift of blue, an infatuation with indigo began. Nothing compares with this dye’s ability to capture the blues of nature—a midnight sky, early dawn, or an impression of the sea. It can also define a mood—of melancholy, of mystery in the dark hues, or joy and vitality in lighter variations. Show us your true colors beginning Saturday July 9, 11 am.

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Rowland Ricketts: The Extended Interview

In our February-May 2016 issue of SAM Magazine, our member-only publication, we featured an interview with indigo textile artist Rowland Ricketts in anticipation of our upcoming exhibition Mood Indigo: Textiles From Around the World. Our space was limited in print, so we’re featuring the whole interview here on the SAM Blog.

Setting the Mood

The upcoming exhibition heading to the Asian Art Museum, Mood Indigo, honors the unique ability of the color blue to create many moods in cloth. Drawn primarily from the Seattle Art Museum’s global textile collection, Mood Indigo illuminates the historic scope of this vibrant pigment. The exhibition features a set of tapestries from Belgium, a silk court robe from China, a vast array of kimonos from Japan, batiks and ikats from Indonesia and Africa, and ancient fragments from Peru and Egypt. An immersive contemporary installation devoted to indigo by Rowland Ricketts will be accompanied by a soundtrack by sound artist Nobert Herber that unveils the musical nuances indigo can suggest. From the sultry darkness of midnight to the vitality of a bright sky, come let the myriad blues in their multiple forms surround you.

Fields of Indigo by Rowland Ricketts

Rowland Ricketts’s Historical Processes For Creating Contemporary Textiles

Artist Rowland Ricketts adapts historical processes to create contemporary textiles. He came to indigo by way of a two-year apprenticeship in 1996. Today, Ricketts works with his wife and fellow artist, Chinami, as they handle indigo in all the stages of its inception: growing, processing, vatting, and dyeing. Read on to learn about this artist’s journey with indigo, from seed to cloth.

SAM: Hi Rowland! Thanks for speaking with us.

Rowland Ricketts: No problem!

SAM: What would you say your work is about at the heart? What are the central themes inherent in it?

Ricketts: On some level, it’s awe and wonder. That is a huge, meta-interest for me. Indigo is imbued with mystery. It’s an enigma of sorts in that it is a dye found throughout the world, and a dye found in synthetic forms. People have been drawn to it for millennia, working with it for millennia, and the end of the day, the color is immaterial, a wavelength of light. There are myriad connections indigo, from history, to plants and the environment, to art, time, etc. We (indigo makers) create these connections and at the end of the day, we’re making something immaterial. Part of the human condition is the drive to create beauty, and yet it is so immaterial. It’s all part of the bigger picture. On a smaller scale, planting, harvesting, and dye-making are all central to what I do.

Installation by Rowland Ricketts, Sound by Norbert Herber Museum of Fine Arts Boston August 28, 2015 - January 8, 2016. Dried indigo plants, indigo dyed hemp, interactive sound.

SAM: What inspired you to work with indigo? When did you start?

Ricketts: In 1996 I did a two-year apprenticeship in Japan, and spent one year working with a farmer and one with a dyer making indigo out of composted leaves. What inspired me was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet. I did photography, taught high school, and was developing black and white photos. I stopped eventually, pre-digital photography. I thought that there’s got to be more ways to create. I met people who were very conscious of their environment, very direct with it. I met them folks who dyed indigo, and worked with them on plants. They first told me about indigo and said to visit the Folk Art Museum in Osaka. When I went, there happened to be an indigo dyer exhibit up. I just started gardening and thought, “Wow, this is what I want to do.” It brought together my interests: working in a sustainable way with the environment, gardening, and farming.

SAM: Tell us about the work that you’ll have on view as a part of Mood Indigo.

Ricketts: The installation was a part of an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (Crafted: Objects in Flux, which was on view through January 10, 2016) and it will be reconfigured to fit the space. It’s coming SAM’s way next. It’s called “Mobile Sections.” For it, I collaborated with a sound artist, Norbert Herber, for an audio component. It’s made up of a large, indigo-dyed textile, 11½ ft. tall by 30 ft. circumference, dried indigo plants, and possibly a video projection. The inspiration for it was drawn from the process: field recordings of the harvesting, planting, drying, and positions of sound. It is playing with materiality and immateriality and it’s a thing that’s so much bigger in person.

SAM: For those of us who have yet to dye things with indigo, can you walk us through your indigo-making process?

Ricketts: Sure. There are four main steps:

STEP 1: GROWING
I plants seeds in late March, and transplant seedlings in early May and tend them, then harvest them in early July by cutting at the base to allow the leaves to dry.

Growing Indigo

STEP 2: PROCESSING

In the fall, these dry indigo leaves are put in a special shed, mixed with water, and composted for one hundred days to make the traditional Japanese indigo dye-stuff known as sukumo.

Processing Indigo

STEP 3: VATTING

By January, a concentrated compost with dye is left behind.

Vatting Indigo

STEP 4: DYEING

To dye cloth, I take the composed leaves, add wood ash lye, and mix them. Indigo bacteria removes oxygen to make the dyeing possible. The dye lasts from four months to a year, and the leaves used to make the dye are returned to the fields to nurture the next planting. With this process, the only thing taken from the leaves is the dye.

Dyeing Indigo

SAM: Okay, last question: What do you think people should know about indigo?

Ricketts: One connection people should definitely make: that the color they’re seeing comes from plants. I grew up in suburban America, and was driven by cars. I only became interested in plants after living abroad. People have been making indigo for millennia! I hope that after they leave the installation visitors think about what the color is, where it came from, and how it got there.

Mood Indigo will be on view at the Asian Art Museum April 9–October 9, 2016. Don’t miss it!

Images: Photos: Rowland Ricketts.
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