What is Vegetal Dying?
The Master of Vegetal Dying in Iran
Abbas Sayahi is the very best of Iran personified. The vitality love and intensity makes communication not only possible but unavoidable even though I speak no Farsi and he no English. I met Sayahi at the scientific programs portion of the Carpet Festival in Kish Iran. Sayahi was singled out for a special award in revitalizing their carpet industry.
Abbas Sayahi is a remarkable man. Besides being Iran’s dye master he also is a successful actor. GABBEH is his most successful movie in the west but he also stared in “IMAGES FROM THE QAJAR DYNASTY” and “THE SCHOOL BLOWN AWAY BY THE WIND”. By the way I also have some images of the Sayahi dye works in Shiraz. The Master of Vegetal Dying in Iran – Scenes from the Dye Plant
Just as children dye Easter eggs in the United States children in Iran also dye eggs. Like many children Sayahi’s first experience with natural dyes came through dying eggs. As a young boy his family would gather natural dyes and then dye their eggs. This acquainted him at an early age with the process.
A good clear light fast yellow is important to natural dyers. Abbas Sayahi used weld to get this yellow.
Madder has been the primary red for natural dying for as long as we know. To get the quality and consistency necessary for the egg we see above and well as in the thousands of carpets that use Sayahi dyed wool The Sayahi family has gone the extra step to grow their own madder. The age of the root, the preparation, as well as the way it is ground affect the way the madder root takes to the wool.
Obviously there is not one perfect red rather there is a wide range of reds possible from vegetal and insect sources.
There is no single source of a good natural green dye. By good I mean one that is color fast and resists fading. To get a green that can be used in carpets the wool is dyed first in blue (indigo) and then in a second dye bath of yellow. The comparative scarcity of a good stable light fast yellow makes green a rare color in some areas and times. This has given life to outrageous stories over the year to explain the rarity of green. One truly amazing rug dealer assured me that green was rare because of respect for the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) because “everyone knows green was his favorite color”.
Indigo is the source of the blue and is the only dye source that the Sayahis use that is a man made dye. Natural indigo and man made indigo are identical and like all of the natural dye masters in the world that I know of they all use the same Indigo.
Abbas Sayahi and his son Parham produce a line of Kilim. While the Sayahis use them as a way to showcase the range of color possible from their dye works they are also excellent quality Kilims.
Sayahi is a master at the more unusual colors. His black is a multi bath process that involves several separate dye baths including Indigo and madder. This results in a wonderfully rich black.
The most common colors in natural dyed rugs are what I think of as flag color, red white and blue. Most countries who are more then 100 years old America, England, France, etc… use red white and blue as the principle colors in their flags. This is because those colors were comparatively inexpensive and easy compared to most colors. Countries with colors such as orange (Ireland) are clearly newer and in the synthetic period.