Colours of the Earth
Within the “In Time Of” concept, The Mills has launched a series of programmes in tribute to seed and soil. Through “A Date with Seeds“, which ran from July to August, we pondered on the relationship of seasonality between Mother Nature and the bounty that lies on our dining table. In the featured “Colours of the Earth”, we continue to explore the intricate links between seed and soil by uncovering the myriad hues through which nature communicates with us. Through these programmes, we hope to curate a story that belongs to humans and nature.
For “Colours of the Earth”, “In Time Of” has invited experts from all spectrums, including farmers, as well as dye and installation artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong, to portray their distinctive colours of the earth for our exhibition.
Have you touched a leaf with your eyes closed and tried to imagine it transforming from a crisp indigo at infancy to a mature, vibrant green and, finally, a withering, pale yellow? Every shade illustrates its remarkable existence; and every hue is its effort in communicating to us its story. “Colours of the Earth” highlights these exceptional splashes of nature while encouraging us to discover the foliage around us and decipher nature’s language.
“Colours of the Earth” is realised through different lenses of The Mills, CHAT and The Mills Fabrica.
Inspired by the global concept of the Resilient City, the “In Time Of” programme is Nan Fung Group’s community initiative that connects people from all walks of life through social partnerships in sustainability, social design, culture and arts. “In Time Of” encourages public to rediscovering the beauties of nature in our environment and within our neighbourhoods, crafting a more sustainable future for the city. The programme aspires to empower the community with the goals of accumulating social capital in the neighbourhood, advocating sustainability and reshaping a continuous relationship that bridges humanity and nature.
Growing a “Hong Kong Blue”
The indigo dye in Hong Kong is rarely made from local seeds. Thus, The Mills reached out to a local agricultural education group Kids Club to explore the possibility of creating a “Hong Kong Blue” for our “Colours of the Earth” programme last year. We wanted to see whether a seed can adopt the locale’s climate, environment and soil to flourish into a plant unique to that plot. Kids Club’s farmers compared our indigofera tinctoria seeds from India with local ones and made adjustments according to their development – or lack thereof. What resulted was the impressive cultivation of indigofera tinctoria that makes “Hong Kong Blue” a reality.
The Blue Dexter
To turn the indigofera tinctoria into a dye, the dexter is essential. The Mills has invited the “Giants Tie Dye” from Hong Kong & Taiwan to create a dash of blue for “Colours of the Earth”. These tie-dye artists harvest the leaves before dawn, when the dew is yet to be evaporated by the rising sun and the leaves are at prime conditions that best represent the farmers’ undue hard work. Their dedication has resulted in what we now proudly call the “Hong Kong Blue”.
Telling Stories with Colours
The Mills has invited designer UUendy Lau, UU to create an installation piece with natural dyes. UU takes inspiration from her upbringing in Tsuen Wan and tells a story about a girl and a tree, named “Happy Birthday to Tree”. Founded upon this narrative, her artwork includes pre-exhibition workshops that welcome community members to explore the impeccable relationship between man and nature, and how nature speaks to us in her beautiful swashes.
Natural dyeing has long been in our history books and underscores cultural tales from around the world. It’s not just an environmentally friendly way of dying our fabrics, but each dexter has a different craft, meaning every product is a unique art piece that illustrates our story with nature.
In UU’s first work themed around plant dyes, The Mills has invited the “Giants Tie Dye” from Hong Kong and Taiwan as her mentor. UU has mixed the “Hong Kong Blue” made by the “Giants Tie Dye” with gardenia fruit and the common madder root to create a swash of colour unique to the artist.
Nature introduces us beautiful, countless shades and intensity of colour. We may not have intentionally made regular observations, but the colours evolved in nature constantly change and transform at every moment in response to the surrounding environment, including both the landscape and the territory largely constructed with concrete and plastic that most of us are inhabiting. Taking creative examinations on natural colours from multiple lens and at different stages of their cycle, we start to learn, question and motivate distinctive connections (formed naturally, artificially or technologically) and stakeholders (for instance, farmers, conservators, artists and cultural institutions) along the process to develop more meaningful and critical insights into our relationship with nature.
Set within a warm-hearted and whimsical scenario with humanised nature characters – flowers, leaves and branches, the project looks into our interaction with the environment and encourages positive expressions to share gratitude, blessing and protection. These concepts are artistically developed and demonstrated through research, communal workshops and art installations. While having inceptive speculations on nature hues, the experiments conducted however do not solely invite visual inquiries but also engage our senses of sound and tactile touch, and ultimately our thoughts and emotions. The project hopes to inspire alternative ways to understand and show respect for our environment through colour exploration and art creations, and thus foster more conscious approach of (co-)living in (and with) nature.
Happy Birthday to Tree
This is a story about the girl and Tree.
The girl and Tree are good friends. She likes to visit Tree who always waits at the same spot to give his greetings. They share the same birthday. Every year, they stay together to exchange wishes, and Tree often gives her a red flower.
This year, the girl didn’t come to meet Tree. Tree is disappointed and he cries. Many leaves and flowers fall off. On the next day, the girl notices the fallen plants on the ground. She feels sad too. She wants Tree to be happy again and she has decided to make a birthday gift for him. The girl wanders around for ideas. Three fairies come to her and they agree to help prepare the gift together.
Flower Fairy instructs her to make a ‘giant bouquet’ to send blessings. Leaf Fairy shows her how to capture a beautiful ‘leafscape image’ to show gratitude. Branch Fairy teaches her to weave a ‘dreamcatcher’ which symbolises protection.
Tree receives the gifts and he is very touched. Leaves and flowers start to grow again. The girl promises Tree that she will never abandon him, and she will take care of him like how he always does for her. She leans on Tree, and they smile happily at each other.
(The story is written by UUendy Lau who is inspired by a Poinciana Tree located on Sai Lau Kok Road in Tsuen Wan that the artist walked by every day on her way to school when she was young.)
Artist UUendy Lau conducted two pre-workshops and invited the participants to create works that explored the theme on natural materials. The workshop deliverables became the artist’s inspiration of which she incorporated the individual insights and ideas with her installation making.
Workshop 1 – Leaf
Participating partner: Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired
The artist organised a pre-workshop with a group of P3 & P4 students from the School. Interesting dialogues and exploration on shapes, colours and emotions of leaves were made to investigate different views on nature from the children’s perspective. Through tactile experiences, sounds, crafts and discussions, the pre-workshop led the participants to re-experience nature and her colours in a different way, and thus inspired more imagination and questions towards the natural landscape.
Workshop 2 – Flower
Participating partner: St. James’ Settlement Project Care Neighbourhood Elderly Centre
During the workshop, the artist instructed the participants to create flowers in different forms and colours and welcomed everyone to share their stories and knowledge on particular flowers. The artist learned more about different ideas of the natural environment in the community from perspectives of the elderly and Tsuen Wan residents. Through images and crafts, the workshop encouraged the participants to rethink about nature and initiated more discussions and positive thoughts on our environment.
UUendy Lau (UU) is a speculative designer-artist who creates projects that provoke alternative explorations and discourses on nature. The main theme of her work centres on ‘nature and animals’, a universal and inclusive subject permeating all cultures, languages, lifestyles and beliefs. Upon her graduation from Goldsmiths, University of London with MA Design: Critical Practice and HKPolyU with BA Design: Industrial & Product, UU has directed her creations towards making discursive enquiries into unfamiliar juxtapositions between the natural world and human-made inventions through creative processes of researching, designing and making. Her projects range over various creative disciplines including object design, illustration and art installation.
Materials: Cotton cloth (natural dyed with madder root, gardenia fruit and indigofera tinctoria), thread
(UUendy Lau, 2021)
“This is a gift to (and from) nature that expresses our blessings”, says Flower Fairy.
We send flowers to share blessings with people we care about. Every flower carries a specific meaning which are often inspired by its origin, colour, shapes and personal stories (e.g. Poinciana represents youth, Camellia symbolises humbleness). The artwork Giant Bouquet tries to decode flowers from various perspectives into layers of shades, forms and messages. Through a convergent visual angle centering on the heart of the bouquet, the installation invites thoughts and creative dialogues on flowers, and thus stimulates a more positive reflection and relationship with nature.
The colour hue, from beige and red to purple and blue, is obtained by natural dyeing with mainly madder root, and followed up a mixed-dyeing with gardenia fruits and indigofera tinctoria. The design and embroidered keywords of the installation are inspired by the art deliverables from the pre-workshop conducted with senior members of St. James’ Project Care Neighbourhood Elderly Centre in Tsuen Wan.
Materials: Cotton cloth (natural dyed with gardenia fruit and indigofera tinctoria), thread, padded textile, bamboo
(UUendy Lau, 2021)
“This is a gift to (and from) nature that shows our gratitude”, says Leaf Fairy.
Looking at the leaves up in the sky under the sun, we see different shades and gradient of green and their shadow, and sometimes yellow and brown, or even red when autumn comes. The moment when the leaves fall down slowly and naturally, as if a painting brush adding colours to a beautiful landscape drawing, becomes so poetic and artistically inspiring. The artwork Leafscape hopes to ‘freeze’ the time of a particular second and encourages us to pay more attention to our interaction with nature. The site-specific installation shows a whimsical collection of leaves created in peculiar size, shapes and colours which are playfully suspended on bamboo tubes that reminisces the traditional Hong Kong ways of drying laundry in the old days – a daily scenario just as much ordinary as how we often encounter nature every day.
The colour spectrum, from yellow and green to blue, is achieved by natural dyeing with mainly indigofera tinctoria and gardenia fruits. The shades of green are the results from mixed-dyeing of the two ingredients in varying time and solution density. The design and embroidered keywords of the installation are inspired by the art deliverables from the pre-workshop conducted with P3 & P4 students from Ebenezer School & Home for the Visually Impaired.
Materials: Cotton cloth (natural dyed with Indigofera tinctoria), rope, bamboo, plants, paper
(UUendy Lau, 2021)
“This is a gift to (and from) nature that symbolises protection”, says Branch Fairy.
Branches represent strength and reliability. They bring leaves and flowers up towards the sun for more nutrients and maintaining sustainable growths. They may look raw and rough but they can make sophisticated bird nests and durable furniture for us that can last for many centuries. They are selfless supporters and protectors. The artwork Dreamcatcher takes inspiration from the ancient version and evolves a contemporary and artistic exploration on its concept of protection that communicates empowering messages. The installation is constructed by a few weaving sculptures which demonstrate an alternative balance and collaboration between natural materials and man-made creations that carry the spirit of safeguarding and care. The artwork enquires into cross-contextual interventions and aesthetic expressions on branches and other natural resources, and thus prompts more speculations and innovative creations in and with nature.
The traditional culture of dreamcatcher is believed to be originated in Native American. The object is a handmade web woven with willow and ropes, and decorated with sacred items like beads that represents unique power including courage, truth, love, humility, wisdom, respect and honour. It serves as a ‘tunnel’ that guides the good dreams to sleepers and filtered out the bad ones. While every culture has its own on aesthetic expression, different colours are often applied to illustrate specific emotions – yellow is usually for optimism, orange for friendliness, red for excitement, purple for creativity, blue for trust and green for peacefulness.
The coloured fabric strips weaved between branches are natural dyed with indigofera tinctoria. The poems shown in the installation are written by the artist.
Is there a solution to dye pollution? Many innovators are working hard to develop new textile colouring methods with reduced water consumption, wastewater toxicity, and minimized environmental impact.
“Colours of the Earth – The Palette for a Sustainable Tomorrow” introduces THREE textiles industry changemakers from portfolio companies of The Mills Fabrica. Techstyle X is excited to showcase its innovations and how its shared sustainable mission transforms the industry.
Visit “our pop-up” at Techstyle X during September to learn more about the ground-breaking innovations by Colorifix, Huue, and Algaeing that can contribute to a greener future through DNA replication from nature, sugar fermentation, and lab-grown algae. There will also be workshops introducing dyeing techniques dating back to the 12th century, where textile colouring methods originated, using natural pigments.
The textiles we wear are made of fabric. Most fabrics are woven or knitted fibres, some of which are derived from natural plants. This is why Seed to Textile, a year-long community project, traces textile manufacturing down to its origin.
The ‘seed’ was sown when Vivek and Juli Cariappa from Krac-A-Dawna Organic Farm, our collaborators from Mysore, India visited Hong Kong during Summer Programme 2019. Alongside CHAT programmes, Vivek and Juli introduced their operation ecosystem, from growing, producing to selling their products, to local farmers and dyers. Among their proudest products are indigo garments made of home-grown and -spun cotton and self-processed indigo.
The exchange continued last summer. We harvested leaves of indigofera tinctoria taken from Kato Izumi’s commission artwork, which became our first jar of indigo pigment. Since then, we have been partnering with a local farming education hub Sangwoodgoon – Kids Club to further cultivate the plant, recruiting like-minded learners (also known as ‘Seeders’) to experiment together, collaborating with artists and dyers to explore artistic interpretations of the relationship of humans and nature.
This Summer, CHAT is delighted to wrap up the experiment and showcase the artistic explorations of two collaborators, Benjamin Hao and Beatrix Pang. Extracting blue pigment from a localised plant is not our only objective. Seed to Textile is an initiative to thread through and localise knowledge from different places and disciplines, and to foster an eco-friendly community.
Simultaneously with the Colours of the Earth exhibition at The Mills in the same period, CHAT will turn the home-made indigo pigment into a vat and bring dyeing related workshops to our visitors.
Natural Dye Washi Crafting Workshop
Date: 11 September 2021 (Sat)
Venue: The Mills
Collaborator: Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop
Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop, an organization from Pokfulam village, is invited to demonstrate the production method of natural dye washi. They would show us the steps of extracting colours from local natural ingredients, with the applications of tie-dye techniques, to create Japanese Washi with favourite patterns drawn on it, which is ready to be pasted on the lantern’s structure afterwards.
The indigo dye used on the day has come from a wood called Indigofera tinctoria, which was planted by KidsClub together with us. A Taiwanese & Hong Kong dyeing artist ‘Giants Tie Dye’ has built a vat from the indigo paste, so that everyone would be able to appreciate the flow of natural colours on Japanese Washi.
The Workshop would be accompanied by a notebook for you to apply your hand-crafted dye washi as its cover.
Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop, established in 2018, is a women’s organization in Pokfulam Village. The members of it usually gather to create pristine and practical handicrafts made of natural resources and local materials with their skillful hands. In order to polish the village environment and enhance relationships between the villagers, they organize various dyeing activities of seasonal natural dye such as turmeric, hematoxylin, bidens, micro-chrysanthemum, Indigofera and so on.
Natural Dye Washi Lantern Crafting Workshop
Date: 11 September 2021 (Sat)
Venue: The Mills
Collaborator: Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop; Master Ng Kong Kin
The workshop consists of two parts. In the first part, Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop, an organization from Pokfulam village, is invited to demonstrate the production method of natural dye washi. They would show us the steps of extracting colours from local natural ingredients, with the applications of tie-dye techniques, to create Japanese Washi with favourite patterns drawn on it, which is ready to be pasted on the lantern’s structure afterwards.
The indigo dye used on the day has come from a wood called Indigofera tinctoria, which was planted by KidsClub together with us. A Taiwanese & Hong Kong dyeing artist ‘Giants Tie Dye’ has built a vat of indigo paste from the indigo dye, so that everyone would be able to appreciate the flow of natural colours on Japanese Washi.
The second part of the Workshop is led by Master Ng Kong Kin. You can learn some basic skills of crafting traditional bamboo lanterns, to create a lantern structure making use of bamboo strips, paper sticks and paste. Master Ng was born in Pokfulam Village, owning more than 40 years of experience in crafting Fire Dragon structures. He is an expert in utilizing materials of bamboo, grass, soil and steel wire for his creations.
As the final step of the Workshop, the air-dried natural dye Washi would be pasted on the lantern structure to create a unique lantern. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, the moment to celebrate reunion, let’s share with our families and friends this fruitful result of traditional hand crafting and natural dyeing.
Pokfulam Village Ladies Workshop
Established in 2018, is a women’s organization in Pokfulam Village. The members of it usually gather to create pristine and practical handicrafts made of natural resources and local materials with their skillful hands. In order to polish the village environment and enhance relationships between the villagers, they organize various dyeing activities of seasonal natural dye such as turmeric, hematoxylin, bidens, micro-chrysanthemum, Indigofera and so on.
Master Ng Kong Kin
A folk artist born in Pokfulam Village, has more than 40 years of experience in making Fire Dragons and is good at using bamboo, grass, soil and steel wire for binding structures. Adhering to his spirit of ‘innovative with originality in mind’, Master Ng founded ‘Ng Kong Kin Bamboo Art Studio’ to open up more space for creations. His works once traveled to the East to Japan, participating in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. In the local field, his works also appeared in Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, ‘Community Classroom – The Jockey Club Art Conservation Project: Six Undead Exhibitions’, ‘Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival’, The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Chinese Culinary Institute, etc,.
Mini Dreamcatcher Workshop ｜Natural Weaving & Indigo Dye
Date: 2 Oct 2021
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: The Mills
Participants: Adults, Children under 16 must be accompanied by parents
Artist: UUendy Lau
Dreamcatcher symbolizes guardianship. It is believed to guide pleasant dreams for sleepers while shielding you against bad nightmares. Traditional dreamcatchers are usually hand-woven with willow branches and ropes. Matching with different decorations, unique kinds of energy are represented. Colours are also added to express various emotions. During the Workshop, you would be introduced to the way to design and weave a mini dreamcatcher of your own, using natural materials such as branches and leaves, as well as applying indigo dye on it. Incorporating modern craftsmanship and meanwhile exploring the prospect of design and art, the Workshop hopes to interact with nature in a distinctive way.
Participants are welcome to bring your used clothes (Those in light colours are more suitable for indigo-dyed) and other natural materials to use in the Workshop. Wearing dark colour clothes are recommended for indigo dyeing session.
Major materials needed for the Workshop: Cotton Cloth, Cotton Rope, Bamboo Strips, Fallen Leaves, Dead Branches and Paper
Tools needed in the Workshop: Glue, Pliers and Scissors