Indigo is among the oldest dyes in textiles and continues to be loved for its quintessential blues. Around the globe, indigo is cultivated to bear hues that have become deeply connected to land and culture. Indigo’s legacy is at the heart of the North American Indigo Projects in Berkeley, California on 31 March 2019. Natural indigo dye is energising artists, designers and industries, and simultaneously linking to international movements towards ecological responsibility. The importance of traceability in sourcing materials and industry production processes have become a large focus as ethical practices gain momentum. This need to preserve the health of people and the environment is reviving the use of natural indigo.
Image: indigo dyed textiles used in the public artwork I am Ai, We are Ai, Norbert Herber, courtesy of Rowland Ricketts.
A leading-edge initiative, the colloquium at the end of March will gather indigo experts from art, agriculture, activism, design, chemistry and technology to engage in discussion of modern concepts around indigo. As well as exploring using indigo dye in artistic pursuits, the speakers will reflect on revolutionary changes in the industry. Presenters range from phytochemist and natural dyer Michel Garcia from Brittany, France, indigo farm entrepreneur Sarah Bellos from Stony Creek Colours in Tennessee, contemporary indigo artist Rowland Ricketts from Indiana, to ecological activist Rebecca Burgess from Fibershed in Northern California. Topics to be explored will be indigo farming techniques, traditional compost methods from Japan, producing indigo powder from plant mass to its modern engagement in topics of sustainability, agriculture for fashion, and regional activism for the land.
The North America Indigo Projects colloquium will reflect upon historical indigo dye practices for revelations in the 21st century, exploring its versatility in cultivation, use, and commodity, and its links to intriguing histories that stretch across science, ethnography, medicine, agriculture, arts, and industry.
The Year of Ethnobotany: North American Indigo Projects. Sunday, 31 March 2019, 9:30-13:00, University of California Botanical Garden.
You can also learn more about indigo from Mary Lance's documentary Blue Alchemy: Stories of Indigo. Available from the Selvedge Online Shop.
Guest blog by Eva-Maria Spampinato & Krysten Watson.