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Happy April,

Our newest indigo story of April is from Iris Sullivan who is an Oregon-based textile artist and grower. I hope you enjoy the introduction part of her story as well as her indigo journey in the Pacific Northwest region.

My first meeting with natural indigo happened while attending the University of Oregon.

Because I had learned to weave as a child, I ended up with a work study job as a teaching

assistant in the weaving department, even though I was studying biology at the time. The magic of indigo transported me, and contributed to the choice to reorient my studies away from biology, towards fiber arts, finishing with a BFA focused on natural dyes.

Soon after graduation, my husband Joe and I relocated to Astoria, Oregon so that I could teach at Clatsop Community College. I taught weaving, dyeing, and book arts there for 8 years. We have two sons, now in college, whom we homeschooled.

In 2005 I traveled to Laos to visit indigo dyers and weavers, with my mentor Michelle

Wipplinger. This experience, being with the Laotian weavers and dyers, was incredibly

impactful. The genuine sharing and connection across barriers of language and culture that

happened gives me hope for the world to this day. As an artist my goal is to create installation spaces that help people connect more deeply to themselves, and to the natural world. I often include indigo in my work, as I believe natural indigo contributes to the mending of our hearts, and has the capacity to bring us together across our differences.

Starting to grow indigo was a watershed event. I met Persicaria tinctoria through Brittany Boles, when she gifted some plants to our mutual friend Kestrel Gates in 2017. Britt and I hit it off, and started our joint venture, Indigofest, in 2018 as a community gathering to celebrate and learn with this marvelous plant. (We are happy to be hosting the retreat again for 2022 after a 2 year pandemic hiatus.)

In addition to Indigofest I teach workshops on natural dye and indigo regionally, and

occasionally in other parts of country. There is so much mystery and beauty in the process of

working with indigo, that as a dyer, the vat, and the indigo plant itself, will continue to be my

teachers for the rest of my life.

1. Location & Environment

All photos were submitted by Iris Sullivan

Dream Bird Studio is tucked into a forest of Sitka spruce, western red cedar, red alder, and

maple trees on a north facing hillside overlooking the Columbia River estuary in Astoria,

Oregon. The USDA growing zone designation for the North Oregon Coast is 8B. This is a

temperate rainforest, receiving over 2 meters of rain each year. The historic temperature range

is cool and mild year round, 40-65 °F, (4-18 °C) with only occasional freezing temperatures, and rarely hot. The Coast Range mountains hug the Pacific Ocean, gathering moisture. Forests here have been extensively cut over the last 100 years. Intact old growth forests are now rare sacred places of wonder and deep beauty.

2. Indigo plants & practices

I first began growing Persicaria tinctoria indigo in 2017. That first year we tried fresh leaf dyeing, and fermented the leaves, going straight to a vat using fructose and lime. In 2018 I purchased seeds and planted indigo at our house, gave away some starts to neighbors, and began growing additional plants off site at a friend’s farm.

The growing site at our place is a deck on the south side of our woodland house. It receives about 5 hours of direct sun during summer months. There is enough room for about 100 plants in large pots. I have noticed a wide assortment of native pollinators hanging out with the indigo. A few of my kind neighbors also grow dye plants for me in their sunnier gardens. These plants grown close to home are what I tend use for fresh leaf processing, and sharing with classes.

Farmer John Huelman, a friend who grows three to four 50’ rows of Persicaria plants for me, lives in Knappa, Oregon, 12 miles further inland. His site receives full sun, and is about 10 ℉ warmer in the summer. The plants get somewhat larger on the farm, and also seem to have a

higher pigment yield, which I assume relates to his more optimal site. These plants get turned into pigment, using the water extraction method.

For pigment extraction the first few years I used multiple buckets, and garbage cans, and now use an 85 gallon stock tank. I have found that aerating in the stock tank with a good sized stick is a more pleasant experience for me than either the paint stirrer drill attachment, or the immersion blender I used prior.

I have dried some leaves each year, enjoying it as tea. Last year I dried 15 pounds (7 kg) of leaves, and participated in an online small scale sukumo making class, with Debra Ketchum Jircik. The class was guided by the book The Way of Indigo by her teacher, Takayuki Ishii. I am very much looking forward to making my first sukumo style vat later this spring with the results. Drying even at this scale is challenging due to the high humidity here on the coast.

I usually store pigment wet so that it is in a good state for creating vats, or printing with. I have been experimenting with both minimizing the lime I use for extraction, and washing the pigment with vinegar to remove lime in an attempt to increase the purity of the pigment. Some pigment is used for other art processes, including paints, inks, paste paper, and to color handmade soap.

Over the years I have used several types of vats. While our boys were little we even made a sig vat using their urine with indigo pigment from India. (Very smelly while in use, but now that my boys are grown, I treasure the things dyed in it.) My favorite vat for work in the studio is the fermentation vat, usually made with madder.

3. Culture & Story of the region

Dream Bird Studio is in Clatsop County, Oregon, in the Alderbrook neighborhood of Astoria, overlooking the Columbia River estuary. These are the traditional lands of the Clatsop and Chinook peoples. There is no known historic use of indigo in this region by original peoples.

My ancestry is mostly Irish, with a sprinkling of Scottish and French. I grew up in rural Michigan, and learned many farmwife skills from my relatives before setting out into the world.

I have been entranced with nature, color and string from a young age. One of my earliest memories is burying tiny bottles filled with colored water as gifts to the trees in our yard. An aunt began teaching me to weave at age seven, and the rhythm of the loom has been present throughout my life. The first experience with natural dyes came with my mother, who taught me to dye with black walnuts, which she used to dye the basketry materials she worked with.

While at university I studied weaving and dyeing under Barbara Setsu Pickett, who brought traditions from her Japanese heritage to our studies, and inspired a deep appreciation for Japanese textile to my practice as an artist.

I continue to seek knowledge about the dyeing practices of my own ancestors. This effort is somewhat hampered by a lack of documentation, as Irish dyeing traditions were very disrupted by colonialism. Woad, the indigo bearing plant of my lineage, is considered a noxious invasive plant in the state of Oregon, and illegal to grow. Growing Persicaria tinctoria, as a stand-in for woad, allows me to dye with home grown pigment. This process aligns both blue worlds for me - of my teacher’s ancestors, and my own. I like to imagine the ancestors smiling as they watch the hand work of artisans today.

More About this place:

The word Clatsop comes from the Chinook word, łät’cαp, meaning "place of dried salmon,” and was originally the name for a single village. The Clatsop and Chinook people, though currently denied federal recognition, continue to reside here, and to organize for recognition.

Early contact with European sailing ships in the late 1700’s brought disease ahead of western settlement, and caused enormous loss of life for the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest who had lived and worked here for many thousands of years.

The history of this place in the last 200 years has many dark stories. The expedition led by Lewis & Clark in 1805 was soon followed by more people eager to exploit the land. Astoria was established by 1811, making it the oldest western settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. The emphasis on resource extraction has often been twined with violence in the region.

Waves of white settlers came here to clear the ancient forests and fish for salmon in the Columbia River. There were also migrations of Chinese and Indian Sikh workers. Both of these groups faced significant hostility from white owners and workers of the canneries and mills. Conditions for all workers were generally dangerous, and there was frequent violence against any workers who tried to organize. Finnish Socialists in particular did have some success in forming worker owned cooperatives for both fisheries and lumber workers in order to improve conditions. (These early activists provided an inspiration for the 10 year grassroots effort which successfully prevented the building of a Liquified Natural Gas export facility at the mouth of the Columbia in the mid 2000’s. ( victory-oregon-lng-withdraws)

In the early twentieth century there was widespread corruption, and a brief though notable KKK presence, which was focused against Catholics, the Finnish Socialists, and immigrants.

There were several massive fires in Astoria around that time, which in combination with over cutting forests and over fishing, largely ended the boom days. The resulting decades of economic depression for the area were only relieved in recent years. The population in 2022 is still roughly 2/3rds what it was prior to the 1922 fire, which burned the entire business district and many homes. The 1922 fire has been linked to activities of the KKK, and may have led to their fall from favor.

In the last 25 years Astoria has undergone significant changes, including gentrification and an influx of new residents. Its economic base has largely switched away from resource extraction, and towards a tourist economy.



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Happy Springtime! Last indigo journey of March is from Pilar Alonso, a founder of La Tintorista Studio in Barcelona, Spain. This episode provides both English and Spanish versions.

1. Location & Environment

All photos were submitted by Pilar Alonso

We grow indigo plants in Barcelona, Spain. We are located near Llobregat River, which provides us nice water and offers a peaceful setting, despite being so near to the city.

2. Indigo plants & practices

We have grown Persicaria Tinctoria for three years now. It has been our best year, and we hope to grow some more for next season. We dye garments for us and for others, including brands, both with fresh leaves and fermented indigo vats. We are becoming more professional this year regarding the indigo pigment extraction process.

3. Culture & Story of the region

We are Spanish-Catalan culture, and speak both languages. We had not previously had direct contact with indigo dyers until we started learning natural dye in 2017. We did not even think about growing indigo until 2018 when we stayed in the Tokushima area, attending a Buaisou team workshop. There, we saw those wonderful Persicaria Tinctoria fields and fell in love with all indigo processes. We are developing our own in Barcelona’s climate, which so far is going perfectly for us, and our experience and knowledge is improving every year.

Pilar Alonso is developing her own brand called "Ninenuts".

" Ninenuts is a brand whose materials are 100% natural.

The products are 100% Biodegradable.

From de land to the land.

Created with Spanish artisans and lots of love.

For our mammal tribes. "

Spanish version

"Cultivamos Persicaria Tinctoria desde 2019. Estamos ubicados en la província de Barcelona, cerca del río Llobregat, en los campos de cultivo cercanos a la ciudad.

El clima parece acompañarnos y cada año cultivamos y aprendemos un poco más. Nuestro proyecto es moderado pero constante.

Nos encanta trabajar las hojas frescas, y la extracción de pigmento, que seguimos investigando para conseguir un pigmento lo más puro posible.

Nuestro interés por el cultivo de índigo apareció tras la visita a Buaisou en 2018, Japón. En nuestra cultura española-catalana, no habíamos vivido nada similar ni relacionado con las plantas de índigo, y nos fascinó. Un año más tarde, decidimos empezar nuestra aventura de cultivo y hoy nos sentimos afortunados. "



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This is an indigo journey from a visual artist Valentin Bakardjiev in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I hope you enjoy his experimental gardening and pigment making processes with indigo.

This episode provides three different languages include Bulgarian, Dutch, and English.

1. Location & Environment

All photos were submitted by Valentin Bakardjiev

I am based in Amsterdam- the capital of The Netherlands. The Netherlands have a temperate maritime climate influenced by the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with cool summers and moderate winters. Daytime temperatures varies from 2°C- 6°C in the winter and 17°C- 20°C in the summer.

In 2020 I have been invited from Tolhuistuin* to use their facilities and to make my experimental garden to research the whole process of Indigo- from seed to pigment.

*The Tolhuistuin Foundation provides the space to participate through the imagination in the development of the city towards a sustainable model of existence, based on the principle of radical inclusivity. Based on the power of art and culture, makers and visitors work on inspiration, new angles, a sense of community, innovation and relaxation, always from the local context of Amsterdam North.

2. Indigo plants & practices

During my art study in Sliven/Bulgaria (from where I’m from) I specialized textile art and techniques for 5 years. Back then my interest started in old crafts and techniques which I was implementing in my art. I was living in the Dominican Republic for several years, also Milan/ Italy, I also have some months living in Oslo/Norway and the last 15 years I’m resident in Amsterdam/The Netherlands, where I started my art project Le Grand Bleu. During those years I have met many colorful and distinctive cultures, I learned about their art and traditions and here in Amsterdam realized that I don’t need many colors to express in my art. With the blue color of Indigo I can tell many stories, inspire people and express the whole landscape of emotions and feelings.

In 2016 I used, for the first time, natural Indigo dye as the base of my project Le Grand Bleu in which I apply Japanese traditional dyeing technique Shibori on different papers. Since I discovered the unique properties of Indigo, I wanted to learn more about the whole process of growing, extracting pigment through fermentation, dry leaf’s approach and other different ways of using the pigment.

Following the ancient information about Indigo and Shibori, I was guided by contemporary growers (Brittany Boles, Marian Gorostizaga) on how to grow seeds from Japanese indigo. I received my first Persicaria tinctoria (Koujoko)- seeds from Marian Gorostizaga - in Spain.

Following the steps I managed to grow Indigo from seeds, extracted Indigo pigment through fermentation, prepared dry leaf’s for dying from which I also made an artwork celebrating the beauty of the indigo plant.

3. Culture & Story of the region

The Netherlands, a country in northwestern Europe, is known for a flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII. Canalside mansions and a trove of works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the city's 17th-century "Golden Age." Amsterdam is colloquially referred to as the "Venice of the North", due to the large number of canals which form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Personally I speak Bulgarian, Spanish, English ,Russian and Dutch language. And I’m very happy to live in Amsterdam which is home to 180 different nationalities, one of the widest varieties of nationalities of any city in the world. My blue artworks representing the endless sky and the deepest ocean inspiring people towards unity and solidarity of the world, found its roots perfectly In the city of Amsterdam- famous as the capital of Denim, Deft Blauw ceramics amongst others.

Holland may not be known for its beautiful weather, but it is known for its beautiful skies. The lovely cumulus clouds inspired many famous Dutch painters in times past.

A shorter version of Valentin's indigo story (English to Bulgarian and Dutch)

“Indigo is the only colour capable of connecting disciplines, people, cultures and places around the world”. Jenny Balfour Paul

My first Indigo Garden- from seeds to pigment.

My first research and try-outs of using natural colours and dyes were during my art education.

In 2016 I used for the first time natural Indigo dye as the base of my project Le Grand Bleu in which I apply the Japanese technique Shibori on different papers.

Since I discovered the unique properties of the Indigo I wanted to know more about the whole process of growing , extracting pigment through fermentation, dry leaf’s and the different ways of using the pigment. The oldest known fabric dyed indigo, dated to 6,000 years ago, was discovered in Peru. One of the earliest written descriptions of Shibori dates to 238 CE.

Following the ancient information about Indigo and Shibori, I was guided by contemporary growers on how to grow seeds from Japanese indigo.

I received my first Persicaria tinctoria (Koujoko) – seeds from Marian Gorostizaga- Spain. In 2020 I have been invited from Tolhuistuin* to use their facilities and to make my experimental garden to research the whole process of Indigo.

*Tolhuistuin provides the space to participate through the imagination in the development of the city towards a sustainable model of existence, based on the principle of radical inclusivity. Based on the power of art and culture, makers and visitors work on inspiration, new angles, a sense of community, innovation and relaxation, always from the local context of Amsterdam North.

My incredible indigo journey in pictures:

- Planting and growing.

- Extracted Indigo pigment through fermentation.

- Prepared dry leafs for dyeing

- I made an artwork from the dry Leaf’s celebrating the indigo plant

- Collected seeds for the next planting.

Bulgarian version

"Индигото е единственият цвят, който е способен да свърже дисциплини, хора, култури и места по целия свят." Джени Балфур Пол

Моята първа индигова градина - от семена до пигмент.

Първите ми изследвания и опити за използване на естествени цветове и багрила бяха по време на моето художествено образование.

През 2016 г. за първи път използвах естествена боя Indigo като основа на моя проект Le Grand Bleu („Голямото синьо“), в който прилагам японската техника Shibori върху различни хартии.

Тъй като открих уникалните свойства на индигото, исках да науча повече за целия процес на отглеждане, извличане на пигмент чрез ферментация, сухи листа и различните начини на използване на пигмента. Най-старата известна тъкан, боядисана в индиго, датирана от преди 6000 години, е открита в Перу. Едно от най-ранните писмени описания на Шибори датира от 238 г. н.е.

Следвайки древната информация за Индиго и Шибори, бях напътстван от съвременни специалисти как да отглеждам растения от японско индиго.

Получих първата си Persicaria tinctoria (Koujoko)- семена от Marian Gorostizaga- Испания.

През 2020 г. бях поканен от Tolhuistuin* да използвам техните съоръжения и да направя моята експериментална градина, за да изследвам целия процес на отглеждане на индиго.

*Tolhuistuin предоставя пространство за участие чрез въображението в развитието на града към устойчив модел на съществуване, основан на принципа на радикалната приобщаване. Въз основа на силата на изкуството и културата, творците и посетителите работят върху вдъхновение, нови гледни точки, чувство за общност, иновация и релаксация, свързани с Амстердам Север.

Моето невероятно индиго пътешествие в снимки:

- Засаждане и отглеждане.

- Извлечен индиго пигмент чрез ферментация.

- Подготвени сухи листа за оцветяване.

- Направих произведение на изкуството от сухия лист, честващо растението индиго

- Събрани семена за следващо засаждане

Dutch version

Mijn eerste Indigo Tuin - van zaden tot pigment.

Mijn eerste onderzoek en try-outs van het gebruik van natuurlijke kleuren en kleurstoffen waren tijdens mijn kunstopleiding. In 2016 heb ik voor het eerst natuurlijke Indigo kleurstof gebruikt als basis voor mijn project Le Grand Bleu waarin ik de Japanse techniek Shibori op verschillende papiersoorten aanbreng. Sinds ik de unieke eigenschappen van de Indigo ontdekte, wilde ik meer weten over het hele groeiproces, het extraheren van pigment door fermentatie, droog blad en de verschillende manieren om het pigment te gebruiken. De oudste stof geverfd met indigo is gedateerd op 6000 jaar geleden, werd ontdekt in Peru. Een van de vroegste schriftelijke beschrijvingen van Shibori dateert uit 238 in de christelijke jaartelling.

Na de oude informatie over Indigo en Shibori, werd ik begeleid door hedendaagse kwekers over het kweken van zaden van Japanse indigo. Ik ontving mijn eerste Persicaria Tinctoria (Koujoko)-zaden van Marian Spanje. In 2020 ben ik uitgenodigd door Tolhuistuin om gebruik te maken van hun faciliteiten en om mijn proeftuin te maken om het hele proces van Indigo te onderzoeken. Stichting Tolhuistuin geeft de ruimte om via de verbeelding deel te nemen aan de ontwikkeling van de stad naar een duurzaam bestaansmodel, gebaseerd op het principe van radicale inclusiviteit. Vanuit de kracht van kunst en cultuur werken makers en bezoekers aan inspiratie, nieuwe invalshoeken, gemeenschapszin, innovatie en ontspanning, altijd vanuit de lokale context van Amsterdam Noord.

Mijn ongelooflijke indigo-reis in foto’s:

- Planten en groeien.

- Geëxtraheerd indigo pigment door fermentatie.

- Droge bladeren klaargemaakt om te verven.

- Ik heb een kunstwerk gemaakt van de droge bladeren die de indigoplant vieren.

- Verzamelde zaden voor de volgende aanplant.





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