I recently facilitated an Indigo vat workshop at the SEFAA center in Atlanta. The focus was on learning about quick-reduction alternatives. (Fn 1). Naturally, we were dyeing with indigo as well. In the workshop we used a simple paste resist, along with traditional Japanese “mechanical” resist techniques, to make marks on our cloth. I, for one, came home feeling inspired by the spirit of exploration and experimentation shown by the participants. Lots of interesting results!
For artists/craftspeople/designers creating in the modern/post-modern reality, Indigo and its related processes offer elements of a studio “meta” practice which can provide a means of merging our deep archaic (pre-rational) and more recent, modern/postmodern (rational) sensibilities. Taking the time to witness the transformation of Indigo, from a pigment (its leuco “clear” state) to a dye accessible to fiber (its blue state), monitoring a vat on a daily basis and keeping it active – these can be conscious, intentional acts which begin to imbue the simple Indigo dyeing experience with deeper meaning. It does seems to me that to incorporate Indigo into our textile and fiber practice – to dye, spin, weave, stitch, print, paint, wear, utilize, admire – is to infuse our creative cycles with its essence and be invited to surrender to the larger Mystery, if only temporarily. And that is a very good thing. (Fn 2)
1. For the uninitiated, indigo manifests its blue color through an oxidative/reductive chemical process which is pretty cool and makes it distinct from other dyestuffs (except those derived from plants closely related to it). I am not a chemist although I am learning.
2. I hasten to add that there are many profound and elevated wisdom/spiritual traditions existing around the world – if you follow one of these paths, pursuing any creative process is an adjunct practice with deep historic and cross-cultural roots.