‘Colour’ exhibition in TextielMuseum shows unexpected solutions for responsible dyeing

The use of dye is everywhere. Yet people pay little attention to the ubiquitous intervention of dye on textiles and its social impact. The ‘Kleurstof’ exhibition, which opened last week in the TextielMuseum in Tilburg, sheds light on both the dilemmas and the potential of dyed textiles. Color by color, contemporary innovations are contrasted here with age-old traditions. For example, mud, weeds, seaweed, bacteria, fungi, scale insects and even urine are discussed as valuable sources of dye. All senses are stimulated: visitors can also feel, smell and even taste the alternative sources of dye.

The aim of the exhibition is to make people think about the large footprint on people and the environment that is involved in the dyeing of textiles, but above all to show what the solutions of craftsmen, scientists and designers of the past and present contribute to. offer opportunities, as curator Adelheid Smit shares during a press tour to which FashionUnited was invited. “Dye has relevance whether it is five or five thousand years old.”

From this point of view, the items in the exhibition show an interplay of fashion, art and design objects from the existing museum collection, as well as ten new works by designers such as Claudy Jongstra, Antonio José Guzman in collaboration with Iva Jankovic, Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar, Nienke Hoogvliet. , Angelica Falkeling and Aliki van der Kruijs. They each developed their own methods for coloring textiles in an alternative and creative way.

Looking beyond the ecological assumptions

In the exhibition, the visitor follows a route along ten different colors in which the leading and alternative methods of painting are always contrasted. They are especially invited to look beyond the leading assumptions about ecologically responsible design. According to museum curator Smit, these can sometimes be misleading. Synthetic paint, for example, weakens the strength of textiles, but the color remains beautiful for longer than when using natural paint, so that the fabric lasts longer. Step by step, an attempt is made to give the visitor a nuanced picture of the variety of options available in answering the complex issue of color and sustainability.

One potential of synthetic dyeing is demonstrated through the work of Aliki van der Kruijs, who uses rain as a design tool and also experiments with textile ink from a residual product of industry. During the digital printing of textiles, Van der Kruijs discovered that there is always a deep purple, almost black-colored residue of ink left. This normally goes to chemical waste, but Van der Kruijs saw potential for reuse. She is now investigating whether the dark substance, which consists of eight colours, can be dissected again in collaboration with Wageningen University. In any case, it has already been discovered that a combination of mold and sugar as an addition to the ink leads to green hues.

Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar, on the other hand, offer a natural alternative to the toxic synthetic paints that are still in use with their Living Color project. They applied purple and blue hues to the synthetic polyester fabric using living bacteria. A valuable discovery, because often synthetic fabrics can only be colored with synthetic paint. The used one literally grows on the fabric when nutrients are applied. This entails beautiful, uneven color effects, which Puma used in 2020 for a sample collection in collaboration with the two designers.

Living Colours x Puma

For larger-scale use, it is interesting as a next step to find out in which ways violacein can also be used as a separate dye. Scaling up alternative methods of color and spreading it to the bigger names in the fashion industry remains one of the challenges that many of the artisans, designers and scientists on display still face. For example, museum curator Smit shares: “The reality is that most initiatives for alternative coloring methods now mainly come from start-ups, many larger brands do not yet dare to try them.”

That is the challenge that Dutch designer Nienke Hoogvliet is currently tackling with her Zeefier experiment, in which she makes textile paints from seaweed. She is now trying to optimize this project for mass production. In collaboration with the Dutch Crafts Council, she made a jacket made of seaweed from the North Sea.

Seaweed jacket, Zeefier x Dutch Crafts Council

Synergy between old and new

As the visitor approaches the end of the exhibition, the value of old recipes is made clear in a room that houses a collection of handwritten paint recipe books from the 19th century. These manuscripts are currently being examined for usability by more than forty volunteers, which also includes testing for current substances. Examples hang on the wall.

But, innovation always matters. That is why a permanent MakersLab has been housed in the museum. Museum director Errol van de Werdt explains: ”Within our lab there are two movements, a revaluation of old textile materials and recipes, as well as new innovations in the use of raw materials. Even old recipes that were unusable in the past due to a lack of certain technologies have become of great value thanks to today’s techniques.” , but also born in an innovative way.

The exhibition ‘Kleurstof’ can be seen until 2 October 2022 in the TextielMuseum in Tilburg.

Source: fashionunited.nl by fashionunited.nl.

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