Cultures around the world and across time have developed methods of making patterns on dyed fabric by applying a substance that will resist the absorption of the colorant in certain areas. This exhibition explores the enormous range and versatility of resist-dyeing as exemplified in Asian textile masterworks.
Resists can be used on finished fabric or on the threads that will be woven into cloth after dyeing. Resist-dye techniques include drawing, stamping, or stenciling designs onto fabric using water-resistant starch pastes or wax; clamping folded fabric between shaped blocks or pads; or tightly wrapping, tying, or stitching with some impervious material around groups of threads or sections of cloth to protect them from contact with the dye. In all of these, the pattern is built up color by color during the dye process, requiring separate applications and removals of the resist medium for each color in the finished design.
The cultures that use resist-dye techniques have distinctive names for each variant, some of which are now in common use around the world. Bandhani is an Indian term for tie-dyeing cloth after it is woven, a technique known as shibori in Japan and as plangi in Indonesia. Batik is the Indonesian word for drawing or stamping a wax-based resist onto woven cloth. Ikat, another Indonesian word, is the process of tie-dyeing groups of threads (warp, weft, or both) before weaving, called kasuri in Japan. The Indonesians use tritik to define stitched resists, while the Japanese have special words for clamped resists (itajime) and stenciled paste resists (katazome). Resist-dyeing in any of its forms is by definition an exacting and intricate process, and the textiles on display here testify to the ingenuity and skill of many anonymous textile artists throughout Asia.