Indigo is one of the most popular colours in the world. Buaisou, a Japanese dyeing brand from Tokushima, has gained worldwide popularity in recent years with their products. After missed out on their dyeing workshop in Hong Kong in 2015, I really regretted it and have been kept following its updates since then. At the moment I saw its post about holding a dyeing workshop during London Craft Week on Facebook, I opened the page and clicked on the ‘Apply’ button within three seconds. I was impressed with how fast my finger are, human is truly full of potential.
Before going to the workshop, I was worried about not understanding instructor’s instructions with my limited knowledge about dye. However, after listening to his explanation about Buaisou’s whole dyeing process with his leaflet, everything was crystal clear. Buaisou is one of the few brands in Japan which grow their own ai (藍) indigo plant. There is a total of 15 steps from plowing and fertilising the soil to making sukumo (蒅) (the raw material of the indigo dye which is made from indigo leaves) and dyeing their products. Weeding and harvesting are the most exhausting steps as they are completed during summer, which the temperature could go up to 90°F.
In the workshop, we were dyeing a white cotton cloth. There are three steps.
First, design and use tools to make the patterns you want. For example: stripes could be created by folding the cloth and tying it with a rubber band. Stars could be made by folding the cloth into a triangle and putting two triangular wooden blocks above and below it at the same edge.
Then, soak the cloth in the indigo vat slowly for several minutes and take it out depends on the darkness of indigo you prefer. The indigo colour would not appear unless you take it out from indigo vat and let it contact with the air. Thus, the area you tied would remain white. When I was soaking mine, I was told to keep massaging the cloth softly so it could be dyed evenly. Mine did not have to soak for a long time as I only want the same darkness of colour for my cloth. Yet, for those who want indigo gradient, you have to soak it into the indigo vat bit by bit really slowly and hold it for at least 6 minutes. It will be quite tiring as you have to hold it with both hands for the whole process.
At last, untie your rubber bands, knots or remove the other tools, rinse it in cold water and hang it to dry. After soaking it in hot water (around 175-195°F) and air drying it for several times, the brownish colour of the indigo vat would be washed off and only the beautiful indigo remains.
This workshop is suitable for everyone no matter how much you know about dye. Apart from trying to dye a cloth, I also learned lots of technical knowledge such as how to separate leaves and stems of ai. What’s better than having an expert answering all your questions to sate your curiosity, and having a piece of work to show off to your friends?
Are you a fan of Japanese indigo? Did you apply for any workshops during the London Craft Week? Drop us a comment below!