We are pleased to offer symplocos (Symplocos cochinchinensis) dried leaf powder as a plant mordant from Indonesia. The fallen leaves are rich in alum and are gathered from endangered forests to support a sustainable crop rather than felling trees for their lumber. As natural dyers we have access to various plant-derived tannins for mordanting options, but there are few alum-accumulators available to us in commercial form. Symplocos offers an exciting alternative to mined mineral mordants.
The Plant Mordant Project offers natural dyers a unique opportunity to make reliable colors 100% from plants. Powdered leaves from symplocos trees can replace aluminum sulfate in conventional natural dye recipes and produce exciting new colors. Natural dyers already choose plant dyes over synthetic dyes because they are aligned with their values, and the Plant Mordant Project offers an opportunity to extend the expression of these values by also using a plant-sourced mordant.
At its source, the Plant Mordant Project builds partnerships for sustainability with rainforest communities and indigenous textile artists in Indonesia. Through its sourcing and sales of Indonesia’s traditional plant-sourced dye mordant, the Bebali Foundation (www.bebali.org) alleviates rural poverty and empowers women, saves rainforests, and supports the traditional textile arts. The Bebali Foundation brings to this project a decade of experience in the fields of conservation, indigenous culture, and rural livelihoods, while its partnerships with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew and the Indonesian Forestry Department, and its funding from the Ford Foundation bring world class scientific rigor and accountability.
Instructions for using Symplocos as a plant mordant on wool and silk can be found here.