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
- 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.
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.
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