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Indigo Blue - Color of Japan

Indigo11_19 Indigo11_06

Summer is the season to dye blue color with indigo.

Indigo plant is the one which we Japanese feel familiar, have been used as dye stuff since it was brought from China 1400 years ago.

In the leaves of this plant are including much "Indican", blue component. Through many process with particular techniques,taking long time,Indigo liquid is laid finally for dyeing.But now we can get synthetic indican powders and make up indigo pots with it comparatively easily.

I have two pots of synthetic indigo in back yard of my studio.
This summer I renewed my indigo liquid after ten years interval because the liquid is getting weak and weak recently by
long-year-tough using.

The new indigo gave us amazingly clear brilliant blue color during this summer. Many students of my dyeing class and summer workshops could enjoy indigo dyeing! →photos

As same as many other countries, we also have long history of natural dyeing. Humid and hot climate gives us various kinds of wild plants and many of them are good foods, medicine, and dye stuff. However it is not known that most of natural dye stuff only can dye animal fibers like silk or wool. Linen, hemp or cotton is quite difficult to be dyed with plants.

Indigo is one of the exceptional stuff which can dye vegetable fibers. So until before Meiji era, for the common people, who were allowed to wear only linen and cotton, indigo was the only color to wear. This limitation became the big motivation to develop complicated tie-dye, embroidery or kasuri weaving techniques in every village side.

For us Japanese, Indigo blue have been important color to forget the summer heat and to purify mentally. In fact as we have to ferment indigo liquid, summer season makes the best condition to dye. The heathy fermented indigo liquid has many blue-violet bubbles on surface (we call it Hana=flowers)and liquid color is jade green. Every material,soaked into the liquid, get dyed green color first and the color is changing into blue in the air by oxidation.

The old wooden box damaged by white ants which had been covered my indigo pots to keep humidity and heat couldn't work any more... But during this summer two friends of mine remade a new wooden box! It seems to work very well, it might another big factor of unbelievable beauty of this summer's indigo blue. Thank you, guys!

*The photo of indigo plant is from this site.

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