TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Natural and Synthetic Dyes
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  10-01-2000 on 07:30 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Friends, In another thread there was considerable discussion (and confusion) about some things Harald Bohmer said about dyes. I found the source of the statements, and perhaps I can clarify what he said and meant. His article, by the way, is about as good a discussion of the topic as I've seen, and I recomment it to anyone interested in dyes. Here's a link to it: http://www.dobag.com.au/dobag/ In a nutshell, Bohmer notes that the synthetic dyes that are generally used by weavers in western and central Asia are rather "clean" primary colors. That is, there are only three of them, a red, a yellow and a blue, and each of the three is relatively close to being a pure primary, without much representation of colors other than the one predominating in each. He refers to this as absolutely monochromatic, which is, I'm sure, simply a poor choice of words. As he recognizes, any color can be generated by appropriately mixing the three primaries. Natural dyes, on the other hand, are generally not so "clean". That is, the reds generally contain significant amounts of yellow and blue; the blue contains significant amounts of red and yellow, etc. This much, I believe, is fact. He then goes on to assert that the reason natural dyes look good with each other is that they already harmonize because of their "non-purity" as primary colorants. This is an interesting notion; maybe it's right, maybe it isn't. He further asserts that the weavers, when using synthetic dyes, don't mix them. If this were so, there would only be three colors in rugs dyed with synthetic dyes, and the garish greens and lavenders (to name just two) wouldn't exist. So, this assertion seems to be an overstatement. I think this is a reasonable representation of the thoughts Bohmer expressed in that article. In any case, it's well worth the time it takes to read it. Regards, Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:Natural and Synthetic Dyes
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  10-02-2000 on 07:39 a.m.
Steve - Thanks for digging this out. Always useful to have the original source. While we're talking natural dyes and sources, I should mention a recently published book in this area. It's Robert Chenciner's "Madder Red: A history of luxury and trade." Richmond, Surrey, England: Curzon Press, 2000. It's 384 pages long, a real scholarly work and Chenciner is another great story teller. I have not finished it but can already recommend it. Among other things it says that despite its acknowledgeed pervasiveness, madder that produces good dye is actually rather hard to grow. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:Natural and Synthetic Dyes
Author  :  Stephen Louw
Date  :  10-02-2000 on 02:26 p.m.
Hi John Another great reference from our bibliophile in chief! I am going to order the book ASAP. In the meantime, does Chenciner offer a sense of the extent to which madder production is able to meet the demands of the weaving industries. Clearly this changes over time, but at what point (if at all) did demand outstrip supply; a factor which must have influenced in some way the swing to commercial dyes. Regards Stephen

Subject  :  RE:Natural and Synthetic Dyes
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  10-02-2000 on 03:46 p.m.
Stephen - As I said I'm not finished with it yet but I can't recall his treating this particular issue. There is his report of a lot of efforts by various folks in various countries to grow madder (sometimes government subsidized, or at least interfered with) that will produce the famous "Turkey red." There's lots of chicanery reported surrounding such efforts. And market forces play their part. Regards, R. John Howe

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