Sunday, January 5, 2014

Community Indigo Vat Dyeing Party

On Saturday November 23rd, I went to Misty Forest (611 N. Hyer Ave., Orlando, Florida FL) to sketch a Community Indigo Vat Dyeing Party. Clay Curiosities (Jenn Benner) hosted the event. Jenn is an art instructor for children at Misty Forest. As she explained in her invitation, "Yesterday, I got witchy with an amazing group of women to explore the magic of Indigo vat dyeing. Indigo cultivation and vat dyeing are 5,500 year old traditions that have created trade routes, developed new civilizations, and spurned nations into war. Indigo has a rich communal history throughout the world. Our Indigo vat will last another week or two until it expires. I would like to invite our friends and community to help us use the remainder of the dye by hosting an Indigo Vat Dyeing Party. You are welcome to share in this exciting process by bringing a few 100% natural plant-based fabrics (cotton, hemp, and linen only) to dye in the indigo. You may bring clothing, accessories, yarn, pillow cases, tote bags, napkins, etc. Please do not bring sheets or excessive yards of fabric. Our vat is small and I ask that you limited yourself to 3-5 items. This party is free to workshop attendees and $5 for friends and community. Please wear old clothes and closed toe shoes."

I anticipated seeing a large witches cauldron full of die but instead discovered a small orange paint bucket. The die had impurities floating on top making it appear like blue lava. When fabrics are first dyed they aren't bright blue. The gradually turn blue as the dye oxidized in the air. Inside people were busy with string and rubber bands for intricate tie dye patterns and Shibori techniques. Shibori is a Japanese term for several methods of dyeing cloth with a pattern by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, compressing it, or capping. Some of these methods are known in the West as tie-dye. There is a definite thrill that comes when the dyed item is unbound and the intricate pattern is discovered. There were plenty of Ohs and Ahs as the items were shown. Leslie Silvia made pillow cases with one large circular tie die pattern right where the head would rest. The large pattern would make the person sleeping look like they had a halo. She said the pattern was inspired by dream catchers.

There were about 20 to 30 participants but only one person could use the dye vat at a time. Between dyeing sessions, the vat was capped to keep the dye from oxidizing prematurely.  Items that were dyed were soaked in water to remove excess dye, then they were unbound and hung on a clothes line. It was fun to witness people coming together to share a creative project. Some people Jenn had instructed, later shared their knowledge with friends who arrived later. I dipped a finger into the vat and rubbed some of the dye into a shadow area on my sketch just to see what it looked like. The raw dye was gritty and almost black on the sketch  I should have put some inside one of my water brushes. Oh well, maybe next time. Jenn said she plans to do similar workshops in the future since this one was such a success.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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