Jan 28th | 10:00 am – 05:00 pm
Jan 29th | 10:00 am – 04:00 pm
Taiwan is a subtropical island country in East Asia. There are many mountains but few plains; combined with a warm and humid oceanic climate, the island is an ecological paradise for animals and plants.
The diversity of plants means a variety of excellent materials for crafts, including rich fiber matter and plant dyes. Natural dyeing has become an important craft in Taiwan, and it also leads the development of eco-crafts in Taiwan. Plants absorb nutrients from the land and transform them into various beautiful pigments. Masters of the craft learn dyeing techniques from traditional culture. Wielding creativity in their hands, they turn the colours of nature into beautiful handmade crafts for the public to enjoy.
In addition to sharing their breathtaking works, the artists in this exhibition also hope to convey the concept of environmental protection and reusable resources. Through the endless potential of our imaginations, we can find an abundance of beautiful colours from the seemingly insignificant plants around us, delightfully enriching our lives.
All the colours in this exhibition come from the land of Taiwan. We hope that visitors can take a leisurely tour and feel the charming colours produced by Taiwanese artists in a long-term dialogue with nature. We wish everyone a future full of colour!
Ching-Lin Chen, Yu-Hsiu Ma, Jie-Yi Lin, Hui-Ru Chen, Ya-hui Hong, Fang-hua Yang, Zhi-ling Ye, Mei-yin Chen, Wu-hu Li, Tennii Natural-Dyeing Co.,Ltd.
The German architect Walter Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus, believed that “there is no difference between craftsmanship, design, and art”; and the so-called “no difference” means that fine, original craftsmanship is, in fact, excellent art.
Influenced by Bauhaus’ spirit, Taiwan’s natural dye artists also have this outlook of continuous improvement in artistic expression. They not only pay attention to the development of technology, but also to the quality of fiber materials, colour, and form. In just over thirty years, they managed to create a vigorously professional and unique craft.
From 1930 to 1990, Taiwan’s natural dyeing industry was interrupted for about 60 years. It was not resumed until a little more than 30 years ago, through the efforts of artists Chen Ching-Lin and Ma Yu-Hsiu of Tennii Natural Dyeing Co., Ltd., and researcher Ma Fen-Mei of the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute. While restoring the technique, the two artists led the research for combining the arts of dyeing and painting. The result was a unique indigo-dye painting in 2000. They used tie-dye and batik techniques to complete it. In 2004, it expanded into multi-colour dyeing. This style of dyeing and painting not only influenced Taiwan’s craft circles, but also affected China, Japan, Korea, and other neighbouring countries.
This exhibition presents the indigo-dye paintings created by Taiwanese artists, as well as representative works of natural dyed fabric in four-season colours.
Natural dye is in the sphere of dyeing and weaving. The dyeing and weaving process is a part of the fabric crafts. Fabric crafts include a wide range of applications, including clothing, accessories, home decoration, stationery, toys, construction, sailboats, etc. Among these, clothing is one that is most common, as everyone needs clothing. Since clothing and fabric dyeing and weaving have such a close relationship, the development of dyeing technology is greatly applied to the making of clothes.
In some countries, traditional clothing and traditional crafts are very closely tied together; traditional dyeing is mainly used in the production of traditional clothing. In Taiwan, while there is a number of people that still prefer traditional clothing, the number of people who actually wear these clothing is very few. Most dye craftsmen choose fashion design, and the development of this craft has followed the direction of contemporary fashion design. Because fashion design needs to keep pace with the times, these craftsmen must learn continuously, and cooperate with different designers in order to create dyed products that meet the needs of target customers: dresses, skirts, hats, bags, scarves, and more, etc
This exhibition presents Taiwan’s lifestyle crafts that incorporate natural dyeing.
In 1994, in order to establish community culture and community life, the Taiwan government began to promote the policy of “Overall Community Building.” The National Taiwan Crafts Research and Development Center also invested resources in response, providing long-term guidance for community crafts. They gradually implemented craft centres in many communities throughout Taiwan, cultivating talent and expanding the industry. Dye and fabric art techniques such as Sanxia Indigo Dyeing, Zhongliao Plant Dyeing, Meinong Indigo Dyeing, Xinshe Fruit Tree Dyeing, Guantian Water Chestnut Dyeing, Xinwu and Baihe Lotus Dyeing, and more. They have all received subsidies from different levels of government to promote the dyeing arts.
After 2002, the government announced the “Cultural and Creative Industry Development Plan”, clearly stipulating the development policies of 13 cultural and creative industries including design and crafts, increasing the promotion of craft industries, and deepening support for community crafts. Dyeing communities such as Xinpu Persimmon Dyeing, Dashuxiang Lychee Dyeing, Xindian Caomu Dyeing, Fenglin Plant Dyeing, Yilan Natural Dyeing, and other dyeing communities that have sprung up in various places, totalling more than 50 communities. The rapid expansion of natural dyeing in Taiwan is closely related to the promotion of community crafts.
Tennii Natural Dyeing Co., Ltd., established and operated by Chen Ching-Lin and Ma Yu-Hsiu, is the earliest natural dyeing workshop in Taiwan.
In 1984, they invested in the research of weaving and dyeing, and found that Taiwanese society had little concept of natural dyeing as technological knowledge and tradition was interrupted for more than half a century. Driven by a sense of mission, they decided to suspend the creation of fabric art and devote themselves to researching natural dyeing. After more than ten years of field research and experiments, they finally mastered the layering techniques and established a natural dyeing system. In 1998, they were entrusted by the government to conduct research on common plant dyes in Taiwan; they published the first book in the Chinese-language world on systematic natural dyeing in Taiwan. This was used as the teaching guide in universities and communities around the world—Taiwan’s natural dyeing art has great global impact. In 2020, the two artist-researchers were designated by the government as preservers of natural dyeing techniques.
The Tati Workshop in Kaohsiung is jointly run by Lin Jieyi, a dyeing and weaving craftswoman, and her parents. They are rising stars in the natural dyeing industry. Lin Jieyi has grown rapidly in skill because of her foundation in textile, clothing design, and printing and dyeing. Over the past ten years, her creations has been recognized by domestic and foreign awards. In 2021, she was awarded the title of “Taiwan Craft Artist.” She continues to carry forth the mission of innovative creation and teaching this craft in the local community.
Taiwan is a beautiful island country and an immigrant society, so the dyeing culture presents a blend of diversity. Prior to the 16th century, Taiwan was the birthplace of the Austronesian language family. The Austronesian people were good at using natural fibers for complicated dyeing and weaving techniques, such as: banana silk, pineapple silk, ramie, tree bark, young bamboo fiber, deer skin, goat skin, etc. These can still be seen in the vibrant clothing and utensils of various Indigenous peoples in Taiwan.
In the four hundred years after the 17th century, a large number of immigrants from China came to Taiwan, bringing with them dyeing and weaving techniques such as silk weaving, linen weaving, and embroidery. Since the Age of Discovery, the Dutch developed the indigo industry in Taiwan, and Taiwan became a major indigo exporter, a good foundation for indigo dyeing. Later, due to long-term trade with Europe and the United States, European and American fabric culture was naturally imported. From the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, Taiwan was ruled by Japan for 50 years, so it also was influenced by the traditional dyeing culture of the Yamato.
Taiwan has been restoring natural dyeing in modern times for about 40 years. Natural dye artists have actively participated in international exchanges and have attracted attention for their unique works. Rich colours, diverse techniques, and the pursuit of artistry are the main characteristics of Taiwan’s natural dyeing. Through this exhibition, we hope to open a dialogue between Taiwan’s natural dye art and the world.
Crafts are the symbols of culture, and artisans are the pioneers of culture.
With these principles in mind, the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute (NTCRI) works to promote crafts and nurture craft workers. In recent years, they have focused on introducing Taiwan’s crafts to the world. Toward this goal, they have been working to create legal frameworks, train skilled individuals, encourage regional cooperation and develop new markets. NTCRI is grateful that traditional handicrafts have now found their place in this knowledge-based economy. A 21 century renaissance for Taiwanese crafts is at hand!
Dye / Fabric Artist
Ching-Lin Chen is a prominent dye and fabric artist from Taiwan. Since 1998, he has been integrating disciplines of art, design, colour theory, botany, and folk crafts to conduct research on natural dyeing in Taiwan. He established the first set of systematic natural dyeing books in Taiwan and the Chinese-speaking world. He has published many books related to dyeing and weaving since then.
Aware that the art of natural dyeing in Taiwan is gradually declining, Ching-Lin Chen assisted in the revival of the Sanxia Indigo dye art, and the development of dye and weaving technology in 12 communities across the country. In recent years, he has been engaged in the promotion of crafts for adults, and the development of natural dye craft in both college education and social education.
Ching-Lin Chen’s artworks emphasize an appreciation of nature and the environment. His fabric art showcases the diversity and richness in nature. Natural dye artworks are saturated with the vibrant colours found in the natural world. Ching-Lin Chen has mastered using indigo dyes to create landscape paintings filled with a sense of grandeur.
© TAIWANESE CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF TORONTO
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