Life has been INDIGO for the past weeks. Nothing but indigo encounters and enrichments. It is addictive, not to mention incurable! And empowering! the hard work of cultivating, drying, dyeing skills and devotion produce an integrity and honesty that infuse indigo works with protection and well being.
Starting with our own Indigo fashions created for Latona Whittaker, the irresistable and charismatic owner of SOUL FOOD HOUSE across the street from Blue & White. (She will be a television star soon on NHK, with her own weekly cooking show featuring her original cuisine, and wants indigo to help get her message across.) Stretchy knit Indigo threads were dyed and woven by our special indigo factory, Tsujimura, Japan Blue, in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka.
But Latona was just the beginning. A house guest was all I needed to venture to Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture to visit the pottery making village where the special attraction is the Indigo House of Tadashi Higeta, the 9th Generation indigo dyer and scholar of color. Higeta Sensei’s amazing workshop boasts 72 steaming vats of indigo where the master dyer dips and dips and dips and dyes the rich deep shades of indigo stencil dyed cloth, shibori, tsutsugaki, and gradated indigo with admirable grace and agility. The building is a 230 year old thatched treasure house recalling the glory days of Mashiko and indigo. Higeta san spends his days researching and teaching the constant stream of visitors who come to him to learn his art. His indigo dye master patiently shows and explains his work as he goes along. His glorious blue products are displayed and sold at the entrance of the house. The compound itself is surrounded by rows of potted indigo plants from various parts of Japan, Okinawa and other countries as well
Meanwhile in Tokyo, at The Spiral Building in Aoyama, there was a magnificent installation of one ton! unbelievable! of heavy cotton rope dyed in 204, was it? shades of Indigo cultivated, fermented and dyed by BUAISO, a young indigo cooperative from Tokushima.
The powerful installation took your breath away as it captured the infinite shades of pure indigo gradated into nuances of green and yellow and beyond, that Indigo morphs into with the addition of Kihada, the brilliant yellow inner skin of the Kihada tree that grows in Tokushima.
Countless hands, countless processes go into the cultivation and dyeing of indigo! And dyers are easy to spot by their blue hands. These are the 8 hands of BUAISO.
And as if that weren’t enough, we took a day trip to KOSOEN in Ome in western Tokyo, to visit the splendid workplace of the Murata family who dye and experiment and teach and share their indigo skills with those who visit. To see their work is an inspiration to me every time I go. This time Murata Noriyuki was just finishing his large scale paste resist Koi no Bori banners that he has been working on for months now.
We were lucky enough to have him show the process, long and painstaking, from stencil cutting to paste resisting, to indigo dyeing that he goes through to produce these magnificent boys’ day banners.
And the sight of the morning’s dyeing drying outside on the lines is always a thrill!
Indigo pots and the straw bags that the brown clumps of dried bright green indigo leaves, tsukumo, arrive in from Tokushima. Who would imagine the long, arduous process of fermentation would produce such glorious tones of blue?
Gradated shades of indigo in skeins of threads are the beginning of sweaters that KOSOEN will create.
Shimmering silk stoles dry on the line at Kosoen. You want to have all of them!
Small puckered scarves are tempting too!
Speaking of Boys Day Carp banners, yesterday at Blue & White we had an unforgettable visit from 8 members of FACTORY AI , a special abilities indigo workshop in Wakabayashi, in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. They were delivering the last of their Indigo Carp banners that they have been dyeing and sewing for us for the past 8 months. This may be the 13th or 14th year that they have brought their multifarious indigo banners to Blue & White. This time they came to see this year’s installation for themselves. Each year we display it differently! and also share their stories and tea and brownies. This special abilities center is developed with the goal of using indigo dyeing as therapy for people with disabilities. Their newly acquired skills give confidence and an ability to be self-reliant. They were a jolly lot of young people who have become friends and members of the Blue & White group of artisans who fill the shop with treasures. People who work with their hands.
Hard to choose which size, which one!
And this does not even include our very special corner in the shop of the work of Shindo Hiroyuki, the master indigo artist and teacher, who lives in Miyamacho in the hills of Kyoto. His lordly thatched roof house is some 300 years old, in a thatched village, where he works diligently daily and receives visitors to his Little Indigo Museum tucked under the eaves of the graceful structure.
Shindo san has generously lent us his creations for the duration of the winter when it is too cold for people to visit him in Kyoto.
He is a generous teacher, an experimenter, a preserver, and even translated my Otafuku Joy of Japan book for me, but wound up in hospital exhausted by trying to make Japanese sense of my convoluted, quirky writing. A true blue friend!
Place mats and coasters by Hiuroyuki Shindo and his supportive wife Chikako.
Though this does not begin to tell the story of indigo, Blue & White is proud to do all it can to spread INDIGO FEVER ! And the INDIGO REVOLUTION that is taking place.
Don’t miss the stunning exhibit of Indigo Shibori of Motohiko Katano at the Japan Folk Craft Museum in Komaba in Tokyo until June 16, 2019