Tuesday, October 21, 2014


First: Aw, thanks, LynneW. It was fun to make it! I'm very pleased with the result.


A few weeks ago a friend of a friend invited me over for an indigo dying session. I haven't ever messed around with indigo before and so was interested to try it. Friend of a friend's friend (this is getting confusing. Let's just call him Alfred, and her Tien) was well-practised in the indigo and prepped a vat for us. We also did some katazome, which is Japanese water-soluble resist dyeing using rice bran paste.

Indigo legs

I was fairly happy with how my samples turned out, even though they weren't great (shut up, inner perfectionist). Indigo is kind of fascinating to work with from a chemistry perspective - the dye exists in soluble, reduced form in the vat, but once removed from the vat it oxidizes into the blue with which you're familiar (blue jeans!). Wet out of the vat it's a beautiful teal-ey green that slowly turns blue. It's got a copper sheen to it as it dries.

We had such a good time, Tien suggested we might go do a weekend workshop with a master artist she knows up in Northern California.

So this is how I found myself last weekend in Covelo, CA, taking a workshop with John Marshall.

One of my samples of katazome & fresh indigo dyeing, on cotton. The flower pattern is woven in.

We learned an enormous array of things - fresh indigo dyeing, growing tips, Japanese textiles, block dyeing, rubbings, natural pigments, katazome preparation and application. Yar, I need to sit down and write out all my notes. I've also got about a billion pictures. Fresh indigo dyeing produces a blue that's a bit more green and less grey than regular indigo.

The plant itself is nifty - you can see the blue in the leaves!
Blurry, terrible picture of fresh Japanese Indigo, Polygonum tinctorium

Fresh vat (abetted by some commercial crystals, as we ran out of time steeping the fresh)

Sadly I don't have much space to grow indigo (or enough water. Stupid drought). The weekend was fascinating, though. It was like being able to talk to an encyclopedia and him being able to answer back and go off on tangents like those wikipedia link wanderings I like to do. It was also lovely to talk with someone who absolutely knows what they want to do and is actually doing it. And who after all this time is still fascinated with it and learning new things about it. I only wish that I could feel so grounded and content. Contentment doesn't necessarily mean boredom.

Beautiful Covelo, CA.  Do cows have mid-life crises?