What's so special about Indigo?
And what is Shibori?
Though I was introduced to indigo as a student (through Sue Bosence), I have quite recently come to really
appreciate it. It is an ancient and universal blue dye, and magical in its preparation as in its appeal. The plant
from which indigo is obtained grows mainly in hotter climates – our indigenous indigo plant (in the UK that is),
being woad, in which there was a flourishing trade in this country, until indigo imports took over, since woad was
the weaker dyestuff.
The indigo vat is like a living creature – no two vats being quite the same. Shibori is the
Japanese term (from the word ‘to squeeze or wring’), for the resist technique of binding, clamping or gathering
the cloth up tightly so that the dye cannot reach certain parts. This results in that most powerful of combinations -
a carefully structured design with the organic freedom of the unpredictable.
So working in that typically taoist Japanese way, shibori uses the character of cloth (working with the physical
properties of the fabric), and combines it with the properties of the indigo dye
(which penetrates the cloth
relatively slowly, - a ‘lazy’ dye), to produce un-dyed areas that ‘glow’ from the characteristic ‘soft-edge’ shibori
patterns. And because of the inevitable variables, (in the folding, stitching, nature of that particular ‘vat’, length of
immersion etc), no two pieces will be the same.