Mindful colours from Korea and beyond

From 13 to 16 June 2023, Rosa Chang, guest lecturer from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) gave a workshop on dyeing with plant materials in cooperation with Prof. Renata Brink at HAW Hamburg. During the 'hands-on' collaboration, Rosa Chang gave the students practical and conceptual insights into her work with the 'Community Dye Garden', which she co-initiated and which is funded by Baltimore City, and her related work in this area at MICA.

Two female professors looking into the camera

Renata Brink (HAW Hamburg) and Rosa Chang (MICA)

Embedded in Prof. Renata Brink's Bachelor seminar 'Arts and crafts revisited – contemporary social and participative design', the workshop had one full seminar day for the students as an introduction to the topic as well as several drop-in days for discussion with Rosa Chang and for the practical implementation of the workshop topic. 'Complementary to our dyeing experiments in textile design at HAW Hamburg over the last two years with mainly domestic and local dyeing plants and their methods, the workshop looked at attitudes towards mindful handling of cultivation, harvesting and processing as well as the dyeing processes from the Asian context and beyond,' explains Renata Brink.

As a basis for the practical part of the workshop, large collaborative dye pots with four different colourings were produced: with gardenia flowers (YELLOW) as well as with flowers from the dye thistle (PINK/ROSÉ), with shells of the black walnut tree (BROWN) and with powder indigo (BLUE) from protected cultivation in the USA.

For example, the 'Dry Date Indigo Vat' was prepared in a large 60-litre stainless steel pot days before the workshop started. The fermentation here is supported by the sugar of the dates. 'With sensitively reacting recipes, setting up, dyeing and maintaining an indigo pot over an extended period of several weeks or even months is akin to caring for a living organism. This pot functions – or survives – only if the respective community here works well together in communication and arrangements,' Renata Brink says, describing the process. 'In a sense, the quality and survival of an indigo pot, that is, the functioning or non-functioning of communality and social aspects, which are becoming increasingly relevant in design, are mapped here.'

In the workshop it was particularly fascinating for me to see and learn how different cultures go about dyeing fabrics with natural materials...The four days were really enriching for me in this semester.

Charlotte Hatje, Master's student, Textile Design

Creative aspects, craft and design, as well as social interaction, were closely linked in this workshop with the specific geographical aspects of the cultivation of dye plants and the concepts of tradition and cultural identity. Similarities in the experimental setups and course content of Rosa Chang and Renata Brink became apparent, as did the cultural diversity in the ways of working. 'Slow making', participatory design approaches, and the possibilities of wholeness in the design process were addressed and thought about further for follow-up projects into the future.     

Charlotte Hatje, a Master's student in textile design, said at the end of the week: 'In the workshop, it was particularly fascinating for me to see and learn how different cultures approach the topic of dyeing with natural materials. Not only do the plants and techniques used differ, but also the whole philosophy with which the subject is approached – especially with regard to the handling of the plants and thus the speed of work. In any case, the four days were a great enrichment of the semester for me.'

The idea for the workshop came about during a visit by Prof. Renata Brink (and Prof. Patrick Kugler) to Baltimore in October 2022, where they met Rosa Chang. Funded from the International Office 'HAW goes USA' budget, the visit as well as the workshop were part of the professional development of the strategic partnership with MICA. The topic is an important part of the two Hamburg professors' research work on Corporate Social Responsibility in the Textile Cycle, which is the foundation of the annual GREEN CYCLES symposia.

Text: Prof. Renata Brink


Prof. Renata Brink
Professor for Textile Design
Department Design

Ingrid Weatherall
"HAW goes USA" Strategy
International Office