Amongst the rice fields of Gianyar lies the largest natural dye workshop in Bali – Tarum. Named after the plant which produces the hard-to-find botanical blue dye, Tarum was established in 2001 by two Balinese brothers, Made and Andika.
Starting with just five employees and a sole client, the brothers’ enterprise has expanded to accommodate 30 local craftspeople, plus a network of 70 weavers in Bali, Java and Lombok. Today’s small factory produces naturally dyed, hand-woven textiles for an international clientele of individuals and small businesses in Indonesia, America, Canada, Sweden, France, Italy, Australia and Africa, among others.
As we pull up, co-owner Andika greets us with a warm smile at the front of his simple workshop. He is typically Balinese with his pleasant demeanour and youthful, round face. Over the years, he has hosted customers from far and wide, and as he guides us around his small atelier, it’s clear that his knowledge runs deep.
The pungent, herby aroma is the first thing that hits as you enter the workshop. “It’s all organic,” says Andika, “the smell comes from the leaves slowly fermenting,” he shouts over the continual grinding of machinery.
We step around puddles of blue dye, watching as local craftsmen, garbed in gloves and wellies, methodically dip and knead sheets of fabric into big vats of dye, massaging the cloth between their stained fingertips.
Tarum is among only ten percent of dye manufacturers in Indonesia to produce and use colourings derived entirely from nature.
“Before we opened the workshop, we researched where to find natural alternatives to chemical dyes locally,” says Andika, who established Tarum only after three years of thorough research.
Having worked at a synthetic dye factory, Made saw firsthand the environmental problems caused by the dyeing industry, including complaints by the surrounding communities about the chemical deluge contaminating the local the water supply.
Made and Andika’s solution?
To create botanical dyes from local plants and trees.
“Natural dye fabric is gentle on your skin, it doesn’t cause irritation and it doesn’t pollute the surrounding environment,” says Andika.
Tarum dyes are all derived from the leaves or bark of native Indonesian trees, some of which are grown locally in their own plantations close to Ubud.
While their research had indicated that the best, most vibrant colour would come from the roots of trees, the Tarum team still opted to use the leaves, even though it meant that the dying process would have to be repeated several times to obtain the same shade.
“We were aware that the colour from the roots was brighter, but we also knew that if we used the roots the tree would die,” explains Andika.
And so the brothers made the decision to operate completely sustainably, extracting colour from the leaves of shrubs in their local plantations several times per year, rather than the using the roots once and killing the tree.
1.Yellow dye is extracted from the leaves of mango trees
2. Black dye is extracted from the leaves of ketapang (the umbrella tree)
3. Brown dye is extracted from mahogany leaves
4/5. Red is extracted from the bark of the secang tree, bark which is imported from Java along with the leaves of the Tarum (indigo) shrub, which imparts natural blue dye.
From the five base colours of yellow, black, brown, red and blue, Tarum can create a whole spectrum of different hues through blending.
The Dyeing Process
At Tarum, the fabric dyeing process takes at least a week, from dyeing until drying.
1. First, the leaves are collected from Tarum’s plantations.
2. The leaves are then chopped by machines into a fine ground.
3. The ground leaf mixture is boiled for six hours with water until the dye is ready to use.
4. Fabric is dip-dyed for an hour and then washed, a process which is repeated between six and ten times depending on the depth of colour required.
5. Fabric is hung out to dry under the sun.
6. Excess dye runs off into a field of plants which suck up the dye before the pure, clean water is released into the river.
Tarum x Katamama
The bespoke rugs, table runners and soft throws which fill Katamama’s artisan suites were designed and hand-made over three years by the craftspeople of Tarum. In total, around 1000 metres of hand-woven fabric was used to decorate Katamama’s interiors, and we are proud to collaborate with a workshop which pays such high respect to nature, tradition and quality.
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