Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Making of the Baba Nyonya-Inspired Shawl

Hi!! I'm back to blogging now after a month of neglect. Too much to do, too little time.

Here are images I've taken of my shawl, a design project based on our personal interpretation of 'Happiness'. What's my security blanket? What makes me happy? I wanted to make a shawl that was all black/ white with different fabric manipulation like gathering, puff etc.  Looking at them may make me happy. But I thought about my travels back home to M'sia, which I look forward to most of the times, and I remembered how Grandma used to always wear her kebaya. Never had my past projects any cultural references. They've always been inspired by catwalks or contemporary Western art. They definitely had nothing at all that told a story of my background or heritage. So this was the perfect chance to showcase the art of the kebaya from the hybrid culture of the Baba Nyonya! Instead of embroidering the motifs, which I definitely can't do (yet), the scarf was silk-screen printed by myself. Motifs were inspired by typical Chinese motifs of the peonies and butterflies, each with specific meanings behind them.

Corner design

The scarf is to measure at 1m x 1m, making it a square shawl.  However the stretchiness of the fabric made it into a rectangular one! The design process was not that bad. I only had to design a corner and have them repeating and mirroring at the other 3. Hence the challenging part was only to make it as symmetrical and as perfect as possible. Motifs of the flowers and butterflies were all hand-generated, scanned, enlarged, printed, laid on corner design and traced. The in-betweens were filled with leaves, stems and the cut-out webbing so commonly found in kebayas.

Five colours were used: 2 tones of porcelain blue, 2 tones of brown and 1 pink, which I gave fancier names in the resource book. 

Outlines of the motifs were all screen printed and the gradients of colours were filled in by hand. Petal by petal, leaf by leaf. All in all, a super labour-intensive process, from coating and exposing of screen to the painting of the motifs. Not to mention stupid colour testings. This doesn't even include fabric tests, samples produced, steaming, bloopers and....omg, the sewing. Nearly killed me and cost me a few precious tears. It was such a soft and delicate fabric to sew (wool/ viscose blend), which makes it extremely hard to sew to the ribbonned border. 

 Close-up of freshly handpainted butterfly with a brush and handpainting solution

Now, washing out of the shawl was vital to ensure all excess colours are taken out of the printed fabric, before sewing. I nearly got a heart attack when the dark blue kept washing out and I came back to my bucket of Mesitol (this liquid fixes the dye even more) being totally dark blued, when there was only dark blue at the outlines of the motifs!! Fading or washing out was my enemy :( 

 Photo taken before shawl was washed and soaked in Mesitol

Anyhow, boring bits aside, somehow, the shawl did transform into something really beautiful and I've already worn it out once, though the colours faded a fair bit from washing. Had to do a photoshoot for the project so I've asked some help from David. All I could remember was him asking me to roll my shoulders forward, chin lifted, and lips parted, man! We ended up mucking around with the scarf towards the end of the photoshoot, which in turn STAINED my scarf with my lippy. DAVIDDDD!!! Hope it is still washable after I get my scarf back from marking.

Here's the result of the photoshoot :)

Resembling some Indonesian Tai-Tai?? (meaning a lady that lives a pretty well-to-do lifestyle with much financial support from husband)

Here's a shot that may jeopardise my image. An attempt looking like Audrey Hepburn in the 50's with her huge sunnies and sun scarf which failed dramatically. Faux sunnies actually was David's 3D glasses. How glam.

Oh well, in the name of fun and a bit of a laugh, it should be worth it, I hope. :P



tanya said...

Looks stunning Mei:)

mei ying tan said...

thaaaaaanks tanya!!

mei ying tan said...
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Edward said...

Awesome, I always wondered how to get patterns like that. I'm inspired by the mosaic-like patterning especially.