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On the Map 2022, #5 Valentin Bakardjiev in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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.