Updated: Aug 4
Since March 2020, when the Coronavirus struck and disturbed the nation, we've been in this strange phase for nearly two years. Last spring, I returned to Malaysia to spend time with my family and to expand my network for DuniaMotif. It took me a month to get back into the swing of things in terms of time and mood, and by the time I get comfortable, it was already May. I had a few projects I wanted to work on, but I had to postpone them due to situational constraints. My movement was restricted, so I spent practically all of my time at home, working on my home-based projects. The idea for expanding to Mum's garden developed from my Master's project last year, in which I collected nearly all of my food waste, such as avocado pits and skins, tea, carrot tops, and so on. I came up with a series of tapestries that displayed colors made from my kitchen waste. You can read more about Project Chelup here
Malay cooking makes extensive use of natural resources. Because most edible plants can be found in a typical Malaysian housing area, I feel more at ease experimenting with familiar elements. Fortunately, all of these ingredients can be found in mum's backyard, where she has planted and grown essential cooking ingredients for her to use. Daun kunyit (Curcuma Domestica Loir), limau kasturi (Citrofortunella Microcarpa), Sarawak chilli ( Native Sarawak Chilli), belimbing buluh (Averrhoa bilimbi),serai(Cymbopogon Citratus), keladi,(Caladium) pokok pisang (Musa Paradisiaca L), pandan (Pandanus Amaryllifolius), mengkudu (Morinda Citrifolia), ulam raja (Cosmos Caudatus), and other herbal plants are among the plants found in the garden. All of this serves a purpose, and it's nice to see them grow naturally. It's also great to forage for family meals.
Mum's garden has welcomed my Indigo Tinctoria plant, which has been flourishing and producing seeds for me for the past three years. Without a doubt, I must give credit to my mother, who has been collecting indigo seeds for me, and I am grateful that it continues to grow healthy and happy!
Since March 2020 in the UK and then for a few months in Malaysia, I've been stuck at home, unable to meet friends and people. Only being able to speak and texting became the only means of communication, it eventually got to me and had an impact on my mental. I began to wonder why I returned home when I hadn't even worked on the main project I was supposed to work on. I was uninspired and saddened by the news of a large number of people, including family friends, who died because of this virus. I'm frustrated with myself because I was powerless to stop it. The very least I can do is stay at home and protect my family from the virus's spread. I'm battling my own mental struggles and reminding myself that there's always more I can do with the natural resources available to me.
Back in the UK, I can recycle my own kitchen waste, so how could I not do something significant here in my homeland? Its true when this Malay phrase saying 'hujan emas di negara orang, hujan batu di negara sendiri'. This entire pandemic situation, I'm sure, has disrupted every positive angle in us, both mentally and physically. I need to learn to appreciate the little things in life and to take things slowly. I begin to see possibilities that, while I may not be able to work on the projects I wished, I may be able to observe my surroundings and create something from them.
The Creation of Kupas Apron
I started exploring the onion peel or skin since my waste kitchen dye project and I started to like the color and its characteristics. The bulb onion, also known as the common onion, is the most frequently grown species of the family Allium. In Malaysia, it's known as 'bawang besar'. The dry skin of the onion produces a natural dye that has been used to colour textiles. Various projects I read online have found that onion dyeing produces good dyeing results. Because the dye had excellent absorption, adhesion to the fabric, wash, and lightfastness, the purpose of using this source was to create a value-added coloured product from the kitchen trash. The colour results are quite appealing, and different onions will produce a different spectrum of warm colours. As a result, I considered translating the kitchen waste project and extending it to the production of DuniaMotif products.
I'm interested in learning more about the possibilities of regenerative and repurposed work and attempting to connect it to the circular production concept. It has more meaning and value than simply producing a product.
The Malays, in particular, use a lot of onion in their cooking. Onion is used for sautéing, flavouring, and garnishing. I was able to collect about 300 grams of peeled skin, but I knew I needed more. As a result, asking for extra help is always a good idea. During the lockdown, many restaurants and eateries are allowed to operate and serve breakfast and lunch for takeout, so I asked if they could. I was able to collect 3kg of onion skins in just two days, mostly from one species of onion, Allium Cepa. I decided to use the 3kg of peeled onion leftover from the restaurant to explore how deep the dye might penetrate my calico cotton fabric. I'm sure I couldn't get all of my aprons in the same colour scheme, but that's the fun of it. I prefer to keep things as natural as possible, allowing the onion skin to perform its magic.
I was pleased to see the yellow created from onions has a really vivid and strong character to it. The first dye pot yields a vibrant yellow that is almost fluorescent in appearance. I re-heated them and introduced the dye pot to another batch of fabric to avoid wasting the dye. The colour was not as strong this time as it had been with the initial dye. This is due to the fact that practically all of the dye pigment was absorbed in the first batch of dye fabric.
Finally, after two weeks of working on my onion skin dye pot, I am thrilled to introduce you to my new product line, 'Kupas Apron.' The Malay word 'kupas' refers to the process of peeling the onion skin. Most aprons I offer are one-of-a-kind and won’t be reproduced. There will be new apron popping up over time!
How are Kupas Apron made?
At my home compound, I extract all pigments directly from the onion skin. I also pretreat, dye, and air-dry the fabric here.
Hand sewn I worked with a local seamstress who was recommended by a friend of my mother's, and she needed extra income to support her family income. You can check out her work on her IG page.
If you have any questions regarding the production process, please get in touch. I believe in transparency and honesty and am happy to answer your questions!