Indigo Sketchbook

Indigo Sketchbook is an ongoing visual journal by Rosa Sung Ji Chang showing a process of growing Japanese indigo plants from seeds to the dye a piece of fabric. More pages with illustration from Indigo sketchbook are available via Rosa's art page / Creative Studio

Bonus track: How to make Makgeolli the Korean Traditional Rice Wine at Home

Rice wine has been used as a bacteria/sugar source for the fermenting indigo vat in Korea, Japan, and other East Asia regions. I tried to make my own Makgeolli last summer and a photo documentation of each step is here. I noticed that some YouTube channels also introduce the instruction of how to make Makgeolli. I'm sharing a video instruction of how to make Makgeolli by a well-known Korean-American cooking channels Maangchi here.

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This is a story about Jimin Kim's indigo journey and his indigo sanctuary "8991haus" in Dangjin, South Korea. Jimin and I met for the first time about 6 years ago in Brooklyn, New York. He visited the Japanese traditional indigo dye studio where I was working as a studio assistant at that time. I explained to him about the Sukumo indigo dye process and demonstrated how to dye a piece of cotton fabric.

In return, Jimin handed over a copy of the book called "the Dyer (염색장)" about the Korean traditional indigo dye process published by the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (國立文化財硏究所, 국립문화재 연구소) in South Korea. I am very delighted to share one of my special indigo peer's indigo journey, creativity, and his space 8991haus.

1. Address / Location

All photos were submitted by Jimin Kim

I reside and grow jjok (Polygonum tinctorium) in Dangjin-si. Dangjin-si is a city in the South Chungcheong Province in South Korea. My indigo farm is surrounded by pig and cow farms; I get manure from them for my indigo. I usually mix manure into the soil to prepare for the farming process when spring comes.

충청남도 당진 에서 거주하며 쪽 농사를 짓고 있습니다. 쪽농사를 짓는 밭 주위에는 돼지& 소 농장들이 있어 겨울이 지나 봄이 되면 퇴비를 받아 밭에 뿌려 줍니다.

2. Indigo Plants & Practice

The name of the indigo plant I grow is called jjok in the Korean language. Polygonum tinctorium is its scientific name. I harvest indigo plants twice a year on my 0.3-acre jjok farm. I used to dye cotton fabrics when I just started practicing natural indigo dying. These days, I got into dyeing wood or hard items with indigo to gain more experience in experimenting with materials. My indigo farm is around two minutes away from 8991haus by car. Every process that is required for indigo farming and dyeing, such as dyeing, extracting indigo pigments, seedling, has all been practiced in this studio. All the creative experimental indigo dyeing is practiced in my studio, 8991haus.

쪽을 기르고 있으며, 400평 남짓한 밭에 2모작을 하고 있습니다.

초기에 염색을 할때는 면직물 위주로 하였습니다. 하지만 지금은 염색의 한계는 피염물의 제한이라고 생각하여 나무, 혹은 경도가 더 단단한것들에 염색을 하고 경험을 쌓고 있습니다.

밭은 차로 2분 정도에 거리에 떨어져 있지만, 염색 및 니람 건조 작업, 모종기르기 등 밭작업 외에 모든 작업은 8991haus에서 진행되고 있습니다.

About 8991haus:

8991haus is an old family house that I used to live in when I was young. It may look like an old rundown structure for others, but the house provides me such a valuable space, and being able to do indigo dye itself is so inevitably valuable. There isn’t a particular reason why I chose the name 8991haus. I just cited the zip code of my family house 899-1. Although sometimes it is at times challenging dyeing with indigo at 8991haus due to the old structure and layout, I still feel very satisfied with doing the process in this space.

8991하우스에 대하여:

작업실 이름을 8991haus라고 정하는데 별다른 어려움은 없었습니다. 작업실 위치 구 주소가 899-1번지여서 번지수를 그대로 인용하였습니다. 염색을 위해 지어진 구조가 아니여서 작업하다 보면 힘든점이 있지만 그 또한 저에게는 행복입니다.

3. Language

Hangul is the writing system of the Korean language and it has been used in daily life. It is our own alphabet, not influenced by any Roman alphabet system. Although we have our own rich culture, it has been destroyed and forgotten by many Korean people due to the many times of war my country has experienced in the past. Most people don’t connect a dot between blue hands and the indigo dye as indigo isn’t considered a major part of the culture here. The traditional indigo dye was temporarily extinct after the Korean War in the 1950s.

Its revitalization has been from many people’s ongoing efforts to bring it back and continue its traditions to this day.

한국에는 한글이 있습니다. 여러 영어권 나라와 달리 한국은 독자적인 언어를 가지고 있습니다. 한글처럼 한국의 고유의 문화양식이 많이 있습니다. 하지만 안타깝게도 여러차례 전쟁으로 인해 여러문화는 대중들에게 잊혀져 가고 사려졌습니다. 주류와 비주류를 나누는 기준은 사람마다 다르겠지만, 대부분의 사람은 파랗게 물든 손을 보며 쪽 염색과 연관을 짓지 못합니다. 관심사의 차이도 있겠지만, 쪽염색은 중심문화로서 자리 매김 보다는 주변문화에 자리 잡고 있습니다. 한국 전쟁으로 끊겼던 쪽염색은 많은 분들의 열정으로 인해 다시 재연되었고 지금까지 이어 나가고 있습니다.

Jimin Kim & 8991Haus: Instagram here

Click here to see Jimin's 8991haus on the Map!

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This is a story about Siripohn Sansirikul's indigo journey in Thailand and resonates with her life motto "paint your life indigo" at the Studio Chiangdao Blue.

1. Address / Location

All photos were submitted by Siripohn Sansirikul

My name is Siripohn Sansirikul. I’m Thai.

I work with natural dye at Studio Chiangdao Blue located in the Chiangdao, a small town located close to Burma’s border.

I'm in the Chiangdao district, 75 km. away from downtown Chiangmai.

Mt.Chiangdao is the 3rd highest mountain in Thailand and a major landmark of my region. There are also several ethnic groups living in Chiangdao; for example, the Mhong, Lisu, Karen, and Akha hill tribes.

As Chiangdao is one of Thailand’s major watershed forest, local

communities have a high consciousness of preserving nature in our region. Farming is a major source of income for the local people. Lushly green and rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, Chiangdao is famous for several kinds of fruit orchards like oranges, longan, mangos, avocados, plum, strawberry, garlic, and green leaves for salad. This region is also the origin for backstrap weaving among the Karen & Dara Ang people.

I moved here just about 3 years. My studio is located in a small village called Ban Muang Kong, about 5 km. from downtown. I selected this village as my home and workplace because of the panoramic view of Mt.Chiangdao from my studio. This was one of the most important reasons as every day is a direct connection to the mountain... an essential living environment for me. I live here with my 86 year-old-mother, who needs close care as she can’t walk on her own, and my husband. My husband is Japanese and travels between Thailand and Japan. I used to live in Hokkaido, Japan for 13 years after getting married. Spending my life in Japan was a turning point for me in getting involved in the garment business which later on led me to indigo dyeing here in Chiangdao.

I love Chiangdao because it enables me to spend my daily life exactly as I dreamed. I can spend time with my mother, enjoy cooking my own meals, and indigo dyeing. I can explore indigo work as deeply as I wish, starting from seedlings. Planting indigo unexpectedly gives me a chance to explore another new world of soil, water, plants, and the influences of each season. These kinds of things are so new to me and make my heart, brain, and senses excited! It deepens my true gratefulness towards the nature around me. For me, this is truly the original value of living.

2) Indigo Plants & Practice

I grow 2 kinds of indigo, Indigofera tinctoria & Strobilanthes cusia. I will include Japanese indigo as the 3rd one since it also grows quite well here in Chiangmai (my first trial on growing JI last year during the rainy season was good enough to continue).

Indigofera tinctoria

Strobilanthes cusia

Last year 90% of my indigo paste came from Indigofera tinctoria while the rest of the 10% was from Strobilanthes cusia. Originally I planted 2 kinds of them in my garden. During the last rainy season until the early dry season, I could make about 80 kg. of indigo paste with 9 batches in total. Therefore my plan for 2021 is to expand the growing land for 3 kinds of indigo plants. Indigofera tinctoria is still my major source of indigo paste making.

My target is to produce about 350 kg. for my own use in 2021. I aim to make a high percentage of blue pigment from my indigo paste since the concentrated paste could offer a desirable blue.

Regarding indigo pigment extraction, I make the indigo paste by fermenting fresh leaves for 2 nights, taking the leaves out, adding lime, and aeration by using a submersible pump. After that, I let it sit overnight and drain the pale yellow liquid out to get the underneath paste.

For the actual dyeing method, I use lime powder to get a pH of around 11 and add tamarind concentrated juice while trying to keep the temperature at around 25-30 degrees. It's not so difficult for a hot country like Thailand. I dye with cotton and linen fabrics.

3) Language

I use Thai in my daily life and sometimes Japanese. So far, natural

dye, especially natural indigo dye, is not well known in Chiangdao since

almost of people’s income source comes from agriculture. Only the Karen and Dara Ang hill tribes do their backstrap weaving, which is mostly for their own use. I plan to bring awareness to natural indigo dye done in Chiangdao on both a domestic and international scale as I believe a wonderful place like Chiangdao is also great for indigo blue. One of my lifetime dreams regarding indigo is creating blue shades original to Chiangdao. My studio's slogan is "paint your life indigo". I would like to introduce indigo blue in all aspects of daily life, not only articles of clothing.

Location & Address:

Siripohn Sansirikul

Natural dye " Studio Chiangdao Blue ”

290 Moo 3, T. Chiangdao, A.Chiangdao, Chiangmai, 50170 Thailand

Mobile: 086-011-7551

Facebook & IG:


Click here to see Studio Chiangdao Blue on the Map!

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