Wednesday, 29 April 2015
musing over the dyepots
I'm told a program broadcast by the ABC recently allegedly claimed that ecoprint bundling is a practice originating from and belonging to indigenous Australian culture. The truth is that it is derived from Latvian Easter Egg dyeing, a pagan tradition pre-dating Christianity, involving the wrapping of hens eggs with plant matter followed by boiling them in a pot full of onionskins and water. I transposed it to cloth (experimenting with steaming as well as boiling) substituting eucalyptus leaves for onionshells. They smell a good deal nicer, for one thing.
As far as I know metal pots, as well as woven wool and silk, only came to this country with the European invasion of 1788 (other than accidental arrival via shipwreck) and it wasn't until they became available that eucalyptus leaves could be boiled in water to reveal their extraordinary colour potential, now in such demand whirled-wide.
But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps metal pots were salvaged from the shipwrecks that occurred along the West Australian coast from 1622 onwards (though that first one, the Tryall, was quite a distance offshore). If you have information I'd be very interested to read it, especially if you can back it up with references. Dye history fascinates me.
I have a theory that dye traditions around the planet follow traditional regional cooking practices quite closely...for example the slow-brewed indigo of Japan relating to their fermenting of foods, the soup-like dye extraction traditionally used in Europe and the stone-ground ochres and stains of indigenous Australians that echoed the ground pastes of seeds that formed part of their diet. The absence of boiled food in aboriginal cooking pre 1788 seems to be a clue about dyes.
I'm not being picky, I really want to know.