I can’t even remember when lal & nil was born; it had always existed in my mind, like dream. It has been like a cloud that has come with me wherever I go, and as I have learnt and experienced new things in life, I have been picturing new additions and alterations to it.
This cloud has changed shape, it has changed colours, it has transitioned from a silky, free flowing cirrus, to a sharply defined cumulus. Sometimes the cloud was ready to shine, surrounded by rainbows and sunny skies, and other times it has been grey and hopeless, thinking it’s only fate was to dissolve itself in a storm and disappear.
One of the times the cloud was in full shape was back in 2012, in one of our many visits to our family in Bangladesh. My husband and I visited a textile workshop where they produce beautiful hand printed textiles coloured with vegetable dyes.
We spent a morning there learning about the process, and we thought we had just found exactly what we wanted. Blue always has been my favourite colour, and I straight away fell in love with the Indigo blue. ‘Nil’ as they call it, is the most precious of all the vegetable dyes, the most historically meaningful, the most unpredictable of all.
‘If you dry it in a sunny day, you will get a different blue than if you dry it on a cloudy day’, the gentleman who showed us around was explaining - ‘Indigo also contains iron in it, which is the reason the dye gets darker and it can look almost black’. I was quite literally in Indigo heaven, hoping to create beautiful patterns and see them take live in this gorgeous colour. Another colour that made its imprint on my mind was red. Not quite ‘red’ as we know it, they called it ‘lal’, and its the dye that comes from the root of madder. It could also vary from an amazingly intense sienna to a soft pink.
Madder and Indigo were the queen and king of the vegetable dyes, and they became my inspiration for the name lal & nil. After this trip, we named our cat Indigo, because his gorgeous blue eyes kept reminding us that some day, our baby lal & nil would be born.