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BLUE: Japan Indigo Dye Workshop and Textile Study Tour, November 27 – December 11, 2018

BLUE: Japan Indigo Dye Workshop and Textile Study Tour — immerse yourself in the culture, fiber arts and traditions of Japan.

Arrive Monday, November 27 and depart Tuesday, December 11, 2018. Limited to 9 participants. 14 days!

My dream is to follow the indigo. From Oaxaca to Japan: Let’s dream and travel together to immerse our hands in the blue dye vat. This program is for anyone interested in textiles and natural dyes, or who is a textile maker working in natural dyes. Understanding the process is the best way to appreciate the creative output of those who do this for their life’s work.

You are invited:

  • Come if you have no knowledge or hands-on experience.
  • Come if you have some or more advanced knowledge of indigo dyeing.
  • Come if you are a designer, retailer, a professional textile maker, quilter and stitcher, collector, artist, painter, or someone who loves and appreciates cloth and fine textiles.
  • Come if you want to support people around the world who preserve tradition and culture through ancient practices.
  • Come if you care about environmental integrity, fair trade and natural cloth.
  • Come if you want to learn, explore, try your hand, become a more knowledgeable collector.

Let there be INDIGO. What you could make!

Join me if you love indigo and textile arts!

We have customized this workshop to meet everyone’s individual needs and skill set. We each go along at our own pace. Our instructor and host, Bryan Whitehead, will work with you according to your level. If you know nothing about indigo or dyeing, that’s okay!

We are offering this workshop in collaboration with Bryan and Japanese Textile Workshops.

Fujino, Japan farmhouse where we live and create

Dates and Schedule:

  • 2 days in Tokyo on arrival to acclimate (November 27-28)
  • 10-day indigo dye immersion workshop (November 29-December 8)
  • 1-day post workshop Tokyo textile/cloth/fashion tour (December 9)
  • 1-day post workshop Tokyo to explore on your own (December 10)
  • Depart Tokyo on December 11

We will meet in Tokyo on November 27, take a couple of days to rest and adjust to the time change. On November 29, we will go with Bryan Whitehead, our host and teacher, to Fujino, about an hour-and-a-half drive to our workshop destination. We will settle into his restored 150-year old farmhouse. Our first full workshop day begins on November 30.

Dye Workshop Highlights:

  • Learn the difference in vat making techniques around the world: Japan, Southeast Asia and Europe
  • Use native indigo that Bryan grows and prepares on his property
  • Access two hydro-sulphite vats using natural pigment
  • Dye with madder and gardenia to see the over-dye process to get greens, wine and aubergine (eggplant purple) colors
  • See how soy beans become a binder mixed with madder paste and soot ink
  • Understand and practice traditional Japanese shibori dyeing
  • Make your own dyed cloth!

Indigo dye pot, Japanese style

Trip Highlights:

  • Explore textile shops, including vintage cloth and clothes
  • Stop to ogle contemporary fashion boutiques like Issye Miyake
  • Visit the Japan Folk Craft Museum
  • Discover the Katazome Museum
  • Meet local craftspeople, including a local shibori indigo dyer
  • Enjoy an Ikebana flower arranging demonstration
  • Discover local craft/gallery restaurants
  • Eat well: in home, local restaurants, special Brazilian barbecue
  • Perhaps we may also take an optional very early morning excursion to the Tokyo fish market

Pre-Workshop Shibori Preparation Homework

Workshop time is limited so there will be pre-workshop preparation of cloth for shibori stitching and binding. Bryan will send you a small box five weeks before your arrival with several homework pieces to complete. The box also holds persimmon tannin paper and a special cutter-knife for you to make katazome stencils. Instructions included.

Sleeping and lounging areas

Preliminary Workshop Itinerary:

Bryan says: “Past workshop participants came from all over the world and each has a unique personal interest in indigo and Japanese textiles in general.” He wants each of you to have a memorable and worthwhile experience. As such, he can adjust and focus the activities accordingly, striking a balance between the shibori, stencil dyeing, indigo processing and dyeing, weaving, textile history in Japan and silk processing.

Pre-Workshop, Tuesday-Wednesday, November 27-28: Two days in Tokyo to recover from jet lag. We arrange for lodging. All meals and activities are on your own, at your own expense. Some may want to go out exploring together based on energy level!

Note: For our Tokyo stay, you can select a  shared room or single supplement.

Day One: Thursday, November 29. (Includes lunch and dinner.) We will meet Bryan in the morning at our hotel lobby. From there we will drive to Fujino, an art town and quiet mountain village only 35 miles from Tokyo. After unpacking, you will enjoy a typical Japanese lunch prepared by neighbors and friends.

Note: Workshop lodging in Fujino is all shared bedrooms with two community bathrooms.

Then we go directly to the indigo dye. First, we will set up the indigo vat to get a clear idea of the processes. You will dye Japanese tenugui towels and cotton thread to become familiar with the dye properties.

Welcome dinner will be at a local grilled chicken restaurant.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for images of what you will experience.

Landscape, Fujino village, Japan, about an hour beyond Tokyo

Each day, we will make small indigo bucket vats to give you confidence to try it on your own when you are back home. The small bucket vats are then added to the large ceramic vats.

Day Two: Friday, November 30. (Includes Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner on your own.)

After breakfast each morning we will take about 30-60 minutes to discuss aspects of Japanese textiles and indigo.

Today, the topic is Japanese shape-resist dyeing, shibori . Then you go back to the indigo vats to try your hand at shibori. For each step of the dyeing process, Bryan will share his 20 years of experience working with indigo. By the end of ten days, you will have a clear understanding of how indigo works with the various additives of different kinds of dye vats and the reaction of indigo with different kinds of fabric.

Lunch will be hand-made (with your hands) udon noodles and seasonal vegetables. You’ll get a noodle-making demonstration from 98-year-old Ogata.

On Day 2 you will also complete the homework you brought with you to prepare it for dyeing.

Working on fiber preparation in the lounge

In the afternoon, we will introduce you katazome stencil dyeing in preparation for Day 3. Before dinner, we will go to a local hot spring for a relaxing outdoor bath. Unfortunately, there is a recent new law that prohibits those with tattoos from entering any Japanese hot spring. Bryan will wait in the lobby while the un-inked among us go in for a bath.

Bathhouse at the farmhouse

Dinner, at your own expense, is at a local pizza place. The owner makes a good Japanese pizza.

Day Three: Saturday, December 1. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner. Lunch on your own.)

The after-breakfast-table-talk cover Japanese stencil dyeing. We will visit Bryan’s katazome teacher at his working studio, where you will witness astounding techniques, skills, values and aesthetics that make Japanese textiles so compelling. This will also be an opportunity to learn more about and use (and smell) naturally fermenting indigo.

Dinner will be Brazilian barbecue.

Day Four: Sunday, December 2. (Includes Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.)

The after-breakfast talk covers local silk producing history and silk in general. We will have a silk thread making (both spun and reeled) demonstration, then make two natural dye baths from gardenia pods and madder to under-dye yellow and red. When combined with indigo, this gives us greens and purples. Today, we will use these dyes for silk scarves. If you decide to use indigo at home, this is a useful skill to expand your color palette.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for images of what you will experience.

Lunch will be a simple Japanese hot tofu dish. Dinner will be a simple traditional Japanese salmon and rice, ochatsuke. You will have time at the indigo vat to dye scarves and stencil patterns.

Day Five: Monday, December 3. (Includes Breakfast. Lunch and dinner on your own.)

The after-breakfast talk will be on the subject of The Japanese Crafts Movement. Then, we will set off to Tokyo to visit the Japanese Folkcraft Museum. This is the source of everything Japanese. Here you will understand the origins of Japanese crafts, feel and absorb the subtle seasonal nuances to give you further insight into things Japanese. We will also visit several Tokyo antique Japanese textile shops.

Note: This one-day excursion will fit into the schedule as we evolve. Since the schedule is fluid, based on the weather and your progress, this outing may happen on a different day.

Lunch and dinner is at your own expense.

Workshop Day Six: Tuesday, December 4. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner.)

Next two days of activities focus on weaving, stencil dyeing and shibori.

You are welcome to bring a small amount, up to 5 yards of your own cotton or silk cloth to dye. Bryan says, “We never ever run out of things to do and material to dye in the ten days! The indigo vats will be in good condition for you to slip outside and dye to your heart’s content.”

Dinner will be a simple nabe traditional Japanese soup/stew.

Wood pile fuels the fireplace in winter months

Workshop Day Seven: Wednesday, December 5. (Includes Breakfast and Dinner.)

We will spend the day on the same activities as Tuesday: stenciling, shibori and indigo dyeing. In the afternoon we will have a special Japanese flower arrangement lesson. First, we will go for a walk around the village and collect branches and mossy rocks with Hiro sensei, a master ikebana artist. He will guide you through the elementary principles of design. It is always a great time. We will have dinner at home.

Workshop Day Eight: Thursday, December 6.   (Includes Breakfast.)

You will likely want more time at the indigo vat. There are also some local artisans studios to visit, including potters, glass blowers and basket makers who live and work in Fujino. Based on schedule and artisan availability, we can make decisions about where to visit as a group. These final workshop days are more flexible to meet each need and interest.

Workshop Day Nine: Friday, December 7. (Includes breakfast.)

Now that you are comfortable with indigo dyeing, Bryan will give you personal guidance on your projects. You will have time to cut more advanced katazome stencils and try a more elaborate shibori technique. In other workshops, he has taught kumihimo silk braiding techniques and small Japanese bag making, which is an option.

Workshop Day Ten: Saturday, December 8. (Includes Breakfast and Lunch. Dinner on your own.) This is a free day to finish projects, pack, catch-up on your emails and blogging. In the afternoon, a friend will come to the farmhouse to perform a tea ceremony. We then depart to Tokyo, check into our hotel, and enjoy dinner in Tokyo. Your Tokyo hotel accommodations are included in the tour cost.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for workshop images.

Post Workshop:

Sunday, December 9. (Breakfast and lunch on your own. Grand Finale Dinner Included.)

We will spend the day with Bryan exploring the textile nooks and crannies of Tokyo, visiting some of the major fashion boutiques to see their indigo and natural dye designs. We will explore Nippori Fabric Town, shops where you can buy yard goods, vintage kimono and textile shops, and dine in small, local restaurants noted for their authenticity and innovation. We will celebrate our indigo adventure with a closing group dinner. Overnight in Tokyo.

Note: Hotel includes double occupancy — shared room. You can arrange for a single supplement at an added cost.

Issye Miyake indigo dress, 2017 collection

Monday, December 10. (All meals on your own. Optional No Host Sayonara dinner.) This is a free day to wander and explore on your own, or to go back and pick up that treasure you saw the day before that you’ve been thinking about.

Tuesday, December 11. Depart Tokyo. Transfer from hotel to airport at your own expense.

See Conde Nast Traveler photo gallery for workshop images. 

Schedule Flexibility:

Due to weather fluctuations and adjusting the teaching and coaching approach to each participant’s needs, the workshop schedule may vary from day-to-day. What we offer here is an outline. Please be ready to adjust your own schedule to fit the needs of the group. Thank you.

Short, but steep staircase to sleeping rooms 

About the Farmhouse and Accommodations:

The restored farmhouse, originally a barn, sits on a relatively steep hill with stunning views of surrounding mountains. Bryan remodeled it five years ago to create third floor guest rooms for workshop participants. The rooms sleep two, and are comfortable and cozy.

Note: There are two bathrooms on the first floor and a two showers/bath on the first floor. There are no bathrooms on the sleeping floors. There is a beautiful wood bathtub that looks out onto the mountain.

We get to the sleeping floor via a short, though somewhat vertical, staircase. There is a handrail.

There is WiFi at the farmhouse.

Meals at the Farmhouse:

There are healthy snacks and drinks and fruit in the kitchen at all times. If given notice in advance we can try to accommodate some diet restrictions; we welcome vegetarians. Breakfasts are simple: eggs, toast, cereals, fruits and yoghurt, good coffee and tea. Food is an important part of the workshop. Bryan offers simple food that has not been processed. No smoking in the house itself. Washing machine runs everyday.

We will make a visit to a local ceramics studio, too

Weather: Late November to early December is after the monsoon season with no humidity. It can get a bit chilly, especially at night, so bring along your woolies and silk t-shirts. There are heaters throughout the house. Bryan says we are pretty much guaranteed blue skies.

Activities, Fitness and Group Approach

Please note that there is some walking, that you will need to go up/down the short staircase from the sleeping rooms to the bathrooms, and that we will be walking when we are in Tokyo. If you have physical issues that could prevent you from participating in these activities, please consider that this may not be the trip for you.

We will be a group of 10 people total, including me. The itinerary is an outline of our activities and may change based on several variables – weather, availability of artisans we plan to visit, pace at which we complete dye projects. Flexibility and adaptability are essential for making this a great experience for all.

Indigo fields on the farm that Bryan cultivates

Want to Go? Registration Process and Cost:

You will be making two payments, one to Norma Schafer, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and the other to Bryan Whitehead to confirm your registration. We will each send you a separate PayPal invoice.

Norma’s stepchildren Nick and Rochelle own a ramen shop and izakaya in Durham, NC called Dashi. They have traveled to Tokyo extensively for research. We will get recommendations for where to eat and drink!

The payment to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC includes five nights lodging in Tokyo on the nights of November 27- 28, and December 8-10, with shared room/private bath. Cost is $1,125, in a 4-star hotel centrally located. We will tell you hotel and location after June 1, 2018. Because of high Tokyo hotel costs, we strongly suggest sharing a room. Single supplement will be $500 ($1,625 total). To confirm your registration with Norma, a 50% deposit of $563 is due for shared room or $813 for single room. We will send you a PayPal invoice when you tell us you want to register. Deposit is required to secure your reservation.

The payment to Bryan Whitehead includes all workshop fees and materials, shared lodging (two people to a room) in Fujino, all breakfasts, many meals as specified in the itinerary from November 29-December 8, and transportation to Tokyo mid- workshop week, and on December 8, guided tour services on December 9, and taxis around Fujino for artisan visits, meals. All other meals are at your own expense. Average cost of restaurant meals in Fujino is about $15 USD per person.

Cost of the complete workshop and the one-day guided Tokyo tour with Bryan on December 8 is 337,000 yen or an estimated $3,000 USD based on the exchange rate when I published this. This is due is two 50% installments, the first when you register and the second on or before June 1, 2018.

Please use a conversion table to estimate the cost in USD, as exchange rates fluctuate. I will send Bryan your contact information and Bryan will invoice you with PayPal for $1,500, about 50% of the workshop fee. The balance due will be calculated at the conversion rate that applies on June 1, 2018.

Note: To Register You Will Be Paying a 50% Deposit

  • $563 USD to Norma Schafer for a shared room in Tokyo, 5 nights OR
  • $813 USD to Norma Schafer for a single, private room
  • AND $1,500 USD to Bryan Whitehead for 10-day dye workshop

Note About Registration Process: You send me an email and tell me you want to register. I send you a PayPal invoice for the Tokyo part of the trip. I tell Bryan that you are registering. He sends you the invoice for the workshop part of the trip.

Cancellations and Refunds: This is a customized textile study tour offered by Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC and Bryan Whitehead for Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC clients and friends. If you cancel on or before September 15, 2018, you will receive a 50% refund for all fees paid. If you cancel on September 16 or later, you may send a substitute in your place and we will apply all fees you have paid to their balance. Otherwise, there are no refunds after September 16.

Required Travel Insurance: Trip Cancellation and Medical Evacuation

You will need to give Norma Schafer Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC proof of international travel insurance one month before departure date. This should include at least $50,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.

If you are a US citizen, your Passport should be in effect for at least six months after you plan to return to the USA.

What Bryan Whitehead, Our Instructor and Host, Says …

Savoring and appreciating old Japanese textiles that were made by anonymous craftsmen gives you a glimpse into a distant, rich and unique cultural heritage.  It is a refreshing break from our consumer lives to know that there are people who dedicate their lives to creating these unsigned masterpieces. There have been, and thankfully still are, artisans to whom self-promotion is an unknown practice. It would be wonderful to run the workshop retreat with this spirit.

The workshop is for ten days. Once unpacked at the farmhouse, you will dive in and swim in the deep purple indigo. You’ll be splashing around in the vats until it is time to re-pack your bags. Hands-on, or in this case ‘hands-in,’ is the best way to know what indigo is about.

This workshop is a great introduction to indigo dyeing and Japanese textiles in general.

For those individuals considering setting up an indigo vat at home, this is an excellent opportunity to learn the basics.

The material covered in the workshop is also a hands-on introduction into Japanese culture in general. The ideas and technical approaches to textile work share the same ethics and standards as Japanese artistic disciplines. I’ll share my insights into Japanese culture and history and other wonderful things that have kept me in this country.

Inky-blue Indigo Coat, Issye Miyake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop Day 3: Rainbows and Overdyes

Rhiannon and instructor Elsa at the end of the three-day workshop

Rhiannon and instructor Elsa at the end of the three-day workshop. Indigo hands!

The third and last day of the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshop brings together all the preparation of the first two days in a culminating extravaganza of rich, deep color.

The beauty of natural dyes: deep, rich color, a rainbow to weave with

The beauty of natural dyes: deep, rich color, a rainbow to weave with

The movement toward using natural dyes is taking hold around the world. It is an environmentally healthy process that is non-toxic and sustainable. Here in Oaxaca more weavers are using natural dyes for their beauty and because it’s what eco-minded textile lovers want.

Rhiannon's shibori scarf comes out of the indigo dye bath

Rhiannon’s shibori scarf comes out of the indigo dye bath

On this last day, we prepare the indigo dye bath to color cotton and wool blue. We also use the indigo for overdyeing. This gives us a rainbow of colors.

As the color oxydizes, it changes from yellow to green to blue -- magic

As the color oxidizes, it changes from yellow to green to blue — magic

Elsa shows the film about the small village on the southern coast of Oaxaca, Santiago Niltepec, where two families remain who preserve the ancient tradition of growing the indigo plant and making it into dye material.  All the indigo that Elsa uses is native to Oaxaca.

Rhiannon's blue shibori scarf dries on the clothesline

Rhiannon’s blue shibori scarf dries on the clothesline

Cochineal gives us red, orange purple and pink depending on the color of the wool, the number of dips in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid or base to modify the color.

Rhiannon wears her finished indigo shibori scarf

Rhiannon wears her finished indigo shibori scarf

When cochineal is overdyed with indigo, the wool becomes deep purple or lavender or mauve, depending on the strength of the dye bath and the natural wool color.

Cochineal and variation to purple with indigo overdye

Cochineal red and with and indigo overdye, royal purple

Variations of indigo blue, depending on wool color and number of dye dips

Variations of indigo blue, depending on wool color and number of dye dips

Pomegranate (granada) before its overdyed.

Pomegranate (granada) dye on grey and white wool

Wild marigold (pericone) changes from yellow to green with indigo overdye

Pomegranate (granada) changes from sand yellow to green with indigo overdye

We loved this purple and bright fuchsia made with brazil wood (grey and white wool)

We love this purple and bright fuchsia made with brazil wood (grey and white wool)

Shibori cotton -- sewing into cloth for dye resist

My project, making a shibori cotton textile — sewing into cloth for dye resist

My project after immersion in the indigo dye bath

My project after immersion in the indigo dye bath

My project after taking out the threads to reveal the dye resist design

My project after taking out the threads to reveal the dye resist design

Rhiannon's samples: mahogany dyed shibori gets an indigo overdye

Rhiannon’s samples: mahogany dyed shibori gets an indigo overdye (top sample)

Another sample: mahogany with an overdye of ferrous oxide (rusty nails)

Another sample: mahogany with an overdye of ferrous oxide

Rhiannon made these tassels for a jewelry project and dyed the tips with cochineal

Rhiannon made these silk-steel tassels, dyed tips with cochineal, for jewelry project

Elsa dyed this cotton shirt with mahogany

Elsa dyed this cotton shirt with mahogany — color deepens in direct sun

Cochineal in an acide dye bath -- brilliant color

Cochineal in an acid dye bath — brilliant scarlet

Pericone before dipping into the indigo

Wild marigold (pericone) before dipping into the indigo

What the mahogany dipped in indigo sampler looks like when removed from the dye bath

Mahogany dipped in indigo sampler after removal from the dye bath

At the end of the day, dye formulas with color swatches for each dye and overdye

At the end of the day, dye formulas with color swatches for each example

And a memorable learning experience that is both rewarding and fun.

Hanging the yarn samples to dry, labeling them for the recipe cards

Hanging the yarn samples to dry, labeling them for the recipe cards

Natural dye workshop is on a rooftop terrace overlooking Oaxaca's historic center

Natural dye workshop is on a rooftop terrace in Oaxaca’s historic center

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops from Oaxaca Cultural Navigator

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops

Oaxaca Natural Dye Workshops can be scheduled at your convenience whenever you plan to visit Oaxaca. Of course, this depends on instructor availability, too. Ideally, we would like at least two or more weeks of notice to schedule a workshop on the dates you choose.

Indigo Dye Bath 4

The one, two or three-day workshops are held in the historic center of Oaxaca city. The location is within a five minute taxi ride from the Zocalo or you can choose to walk 20-minutes to get there.  We send map and directions after you register and pay your fees.

All workshops include instruction, materials and recipes.

Featuring private and small group workshops. 

Penland Indigo Workshop

 The Complete 3-day Workshop (32 colors)

Day 1–Prep for the Process:  9:30 am to about 2:30 pm — This is a preparation day. You will prepare grey and white wool with a mordant, in order to achieve 30 different colors on Day 2 and Day 3! We will talk about natural dyes in Oaxaca, and make the extract of pericón (wild marigold) and pomegranate.

Day 2–Red, Yellow, Brown: 9:30 am to 2:30 pm — You dye with pomegranate and pericón (wild marigold), then prepare extracts of cochineal (acid and neutral), the insect that produces carminic acid to give an intense, colorfast red.

Day 3–Rainbows & Overdyes: 9:30 am to 2:30 pm — You will prepare an indigo vat, make a shibori scarf design, then dye with indigo to get various shades of blue. With an indigo over-dye, you will get a range of purples and greens to master the color variations.

Private workshop fee is $435 USD for one person. $375 per person for two or more people.

The 2-day Workshop (11 colors)

Day 1: 9:30 am to about 2:30 pm — First you begin to understand the natural dye process by first applying a mordant to the white wool. This takes time, and we wait until the wool is sufficiently “cooked” so that you can prepare it to create 11 different colors. You will then dye with pericon (wild marigold) and pomegranate, and make an extract of cochineal (acid and neutral).

Day 2: 9:30 am to 2:30 pm — You will prepare an indigo dye vat and then use the wool you dyed on Day 1 to make over dyes that will yield purples and greens.

Private workshop fee is $290 for one person. $265 per person for two or more people.

The 1-Day Workshop: Cochineal Only

From 9:30 am to 2:30 pm you will start the mordant process, discuss natural dyes in Oaxaca, start the mordant process, and prepared extracts of cochineal as you change the pH of the dye vat to yield 12 different colors of red.

Private workshop fee is $155 for one person. $135 per person for two or more people.

How to Register and Pay: Send Norma Schafer an email to tell us your preferred dates. We will check about dates available and let you know. Then, you tell us you are ready to register. We will send you an invoice to pay with PayPal. The invoice is for 100% of the fees in advance of the workshop.

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Notes:

  • Days must be taken in sequence. If there is a group of 4 or more people, we can offer a group price. Please contact me.
  • Lunch is on your own. You can bring a lunch or go out in the neighborhood.
  • Please bring your own drinks and snacks.
  • We give directions to the workshop after you register and pay the workshop fees.

About Your Instructor: The workshop instructor is a knowledgeable expert in the natural dye process and materials. She provides dyed wool and cotton yarns and thread to many of Oaxaca’s famous weavers and textile designers, and she works with textile designers worldwide to offer customized colors that are used in fashion and home goods.

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Reservations and Refund Policy

100% of the workshop fee is due and payable in advance. We will send you an invoice by PayPal. Cancellations made within 30-days of the workshop date are not refundable.

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Please let us know if you have any questions.

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Indigo Dye Workshop in Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca

Making a shibori scarf using indigo dye was a highlight of the Penland School of Crafts visit to Oaxaca.

Penland Indigo WorkshopWe settled into the workshop studio of the Chavez Santiago family to hear about the planting, cultivation and preparation of indigo on the coast of Oaxaca in the village of Santiago Niltepec.

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Some people called it tie dye, but we know better since the technique was originally developed in Japan.  Lots of ways to make designs and patterns in the cloth that will resist the dye that coats its surface. PenlandBest91-60

It is a long seven month process to grow the indigo plant.  It needs the right soil and climate plus the knowledge of how to extract the blue color from the plant so that it becomes a stable and strong dye.

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The Museo Textil de Oaxaca now has an excellent exhibit and video that explains the fermentation, dye extraction and drying process.  What you end up with is a hard chunk of material that looks like coal.  It’s then ground into a powder and carefully added to a water bath so that the oxygen molecules are not activated.

PenlandBest91-56After we use rubber bands, string, marbles, beans, nuts, and just simple folding to create the pattern, we tie a string to the cotton cloth to submerge it gently into the dye bath.  It stays there for about twenty minutes.  Those who used the folding technique wrapped their cloth around styrofoam cylinders.

PenlandBest91-58 PenlandBest91-65 PenlandBest91-51 I work with local experts and guides to put together an unusual and intimate view of Oaxaca, her art, food and culture. I am not a tour guide but an expert at award-winning university program development. If you organization has interest in a program such as this one, please contact me.

PenlandBest91-69 PenlandBest91-64Art making in Oaxaca comes in many forms and varieties.  Making indigo scarves is just one way to participate hands-on in all that Oaxaca has to offer.

PenlandBest91-71 PenlandBest91-68 PenlandBest91-62At the end of the workshop we enjoyed a tapestry weaving demonstration with Federico Chavez Sosa and his wife Dolores Santiago Arrellanas who operate Galeria Fe y Lola in Oaxaca city. Its amazing to see how they color all their wool with natural dyes and use the color together to make extraordinary, vibrant carpets.

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Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

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Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago and Elsa Sanchez Diaz, Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leaders, take us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations. See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

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The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric and Elsa have developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

  • 1-Day Workshop: $125 USD
  • 2-Day Workshop: $235 USD
  • 3-Day Workshop: $355 USD

Workshops include all instruction, formulas and dye sampler. The 3-Day Workshop includes making a shibori scarf dyed with indigo.

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In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

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This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

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During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

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Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

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Our participants come from throughout the world.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  They have included an English professor,  a faculty member in architecture and interior design, mixed media artists, and two professional weavers.  Everyone comes away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

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We can schedule a workshop to suit your travel schedule. Contact us.