Dominique Cardon, French researcher of natural dyes and author of the classic reference book, Natural Dyes: Sources Tradition, Technology and Science, has just provided dyers another important resource and insight into the natural dye process: Workbook, Antoine Janot’s Colours
For several years, Cardon has been translating and publishing a series of books that document the work of 18th century French dyers. The 18th century was the classical period of wool dyeing in France. Last year, Des Couleurs pour les Lumières. Antoine Janot, Teinturier Occitan 1700-1778 was released, but only in French. This book was based on the original dye notebooks of Antoine Janot, a professional dyer from the Occitan region of the country.
Workbook, Antoine Janot’s Colours, which Dominique wrote in collaboration with her daughter Iris Brémaud, begins by providing background information on Janot and a description of the project. The most useful part of this small book to dyers is its practical nature. It includes a full palette of Janot’s colors and their recipes along with process information. It is written in both French and English.
The dyed colors are represented as visuals that were matched from actual wool samples from the original notebooks. Cardon used a color analyzer and the CIELAB system to accurately portray each hue. CIELAB is an international system that scientifically analyzes colors by using a system of coordinates to “map” them graphically and very precisely.
Descriptions of mordanting and dyeing include % weight of dye materials along with other additions that were made to the baths. In some cases, helpfully, an explanation of the WHY is included.
The key to some of the color palette is a full gradation of indigo blues, from the very palest to very deep. Each blue has its own name such as “crow’s wing” (the very darkest) to “off-white blue” (the very palest). The CIELAB system allows an accurate visual description of each of these blues.
These blue shades are critical to achieving greens, purples and greys. Instructions for mixed colors designate which blue to start with. A full range of indigo blues, from lightest to darkest, is not an easy thing to accomplish. I have been working on that very thing consistently for the last months in my own studio, so it is especially meaningful to me right now.
I have recently been doing color replication work for logwood purple using a combination of indigo and cochineal. A systematic approach to dyeing the initial indigo blues is a huge help in approaching this kind of color matching.
It is rare to be able to gain such a deep insight into a professional dyer’s process and results. Historical color descriptions, such as “wine soup”, “celadon green”, and “crimson” become more than just words on a page when colors are able to be seen accurately with the eye.
For dyer’s looking for a deeper insight into the world of professional natural dye, this book is a treasure.
I ordered my copy directly from France and it took several weeks to arrive. According to Charlotte Kwon, the book will also soon be available from Maiwa.