Dying to Dye: Introductions and Meetings in the Philippines – Emilie Jehng + Lyza Baum, BFA Textiles, 2016
Our first two weeks in the Philippines have been a confusing-yet-exciting mishmash of business and pleasure. Business meetings with collaborators become intriguing conversations with friends, and fun turns into productive ideas for our project. These two weeks can perhaps only be described through a haze of citronella oil, multiple cups of coffee, pan de sal as merienda, and a long mealtime discussion which we will conveniently be calling a meeting. And while the idea of trying to encompass what we’ve experienced thus far is nearly impossible, we will try our best.
Lyza and I have decided to delegate our blog as such: I (Emilie), will be posting this week about our activities these first two weeks and Lyza will be supplying the photos for this post. In two weeks, when we post again, our roles will reverse. At the end of each blog post we will both be reflecting on our experiences thus far.
Since having landed greeted by ninety-degree weather we have:
1. Traveled to Laguna, a town an hour south of Manila, in the hopes of further understanding local cottage industries in the Philippines. There we visited and toured the home/studio of local ceramic artists.
2. Had a lunchtime meeting at the Patis Tito Garden Cafe with Nina Tesoro to discuss our 4-day long natural dye workshop with her and her mother, Patis Tesoro. Patis Tesoro is considered the “Grand Dame of Philippine Fashion”. Believing that ethnic wear is integral to the Filipino identity, after the Marcos regime Patis decided to revive pina fabric production. Pina fabric, composed of pineapple fiber, is one that is reflective of the Filipino culture and used in special occasion garments such as the barong. Working with pina weavers, Patis began conducting workshops to pass on methods of producing this fabric.
During our four days with the Tesoros, we plan to experiment dyeing abaca, raffia and pina fiber, using fresh tumeric, dried atseute, and talisay.
3. Went to Divisoria, a dizzying labyrinth of stalls with bolts fabric, stacks of kitchen supplies, multi-colored plastic toys, large bags filled with spices, and hangers full of clothing. We were in search of materials for the dye experiments, and we were going to find them here. Three hours later, we left the market exhausted and sweaty, but with fibers to dye, spices/plants to extract dyes from, and our mordants of alum and citric acid.
4. Met with the Philippine Textiles Research Institute. PTRI has been able to identify 100 native dye plants, 30 of which have been successfully been turned into powder, and 6 which have been turned into paste. PTRI holds an entire library of research on native dye plants and they have granted us access to this information. After our meeting PTRI also agreed to allow us to utilize their dye lab. These next few days will be spent conducting dye experiments at PTRI.
-our successes and failures will be closely linked to the relationships we are able to form here. learning how to connect in a culture different than our own will be key to our time in the Philippines
-while PTRI holds a library of info for us to use, perhaps more knowledgable are two people, Rudy and Lucy, currently conducting these experiments for PTRI
-citronella oil is a godsend
Getting acclimated to a foreign country always takes time, but I believe that Emilie and I are beginning to understand the complex culture of the Philippines. Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by our collaborator and mentor Clara Balaguer, head of OCD and Project Coordinator of Class Act. Within the past two weeks she has introduced us to Manila, Filipino culture, and key resources and people for our natural dye research. In just two weeks we have had a handful of adventures that have brought us closer together as collaborators and friends.
Clara, Emilie, and I have begun a nightly ritual of drinking tea after dinner and discussing the agenda for the following day. Often this after-dinner conversation turns into an enlightening and thought provoking dialogue. Through these conversation we have begun to discuss topics such as indigenous appropriation of textiles, the politics of sharing knowledge, the “nothing goes to waste” mentality in the Philippines, and the meaning of community art. These topics will be important elements of our research as we move forward.
The Filipino “nothing goes to waste” mentality is especially important as we begin to think about how natural dye can be a sustainable way to fully utilize natural by-products such as onion skins, mangosteen husks, and coffee grinds.
Although a majority of our time was spent adjusting to the 12 hour time difference, getting stuck in Manila traffic, and meeting with collaborators, I feel positive that we are moving in the right direction. After a successful meeting at PTRI I am excited to have access to a fully equipped dye lab and the opportunity to work alongside people who have an incredible amount of natural dye knowledge. I am looking forward to being fully immersed in our research and seeing where it takes us in the following two weeks.
Lyza + Emilie