On Saturday, February 11th, a group of 16 gathered at the Temple in Brooklyn to explore the color blue. An Overview of Blue: Introduction to Indigo and Shibori, a day-long workshop led by Robyn Ikyo Love, MRO and Bob Seiyu Lanaghan, MRO, offered an opportunity to explore the history and chemistry of indigo in a very hands-on way. The day started with a brief period of zazen and an invitation to take up working with the materials with a mind of zazen—directly and with awareness of how we handle them, our connection to them and to others.
We talked about how indigo has traveled the globe as a kind of cultural marker. The color blue is the color of the sky and of water and it has been a universal and very human quest to reproduce it with indigo. Starting in the Indus Valley in 2400 BCE, the plant has been carried around the world, from Ancient Egypt to Asia, Europe, West Africa and even to the US, where it was used a currency in the slave trade. Indeed, slaves from West Africa brought their knowledge of indigo processing with them and we see this knowledge woven directly into our history with the indigo blue color in our flag.
After this perspective was offered, Seiyu presented an overview of the how’s and why’s of the process of transforming a plant into this remarkable dye stuff, along with an introduction to techniques and materials of shibori—the Japanese dyeing technique that has traditionally been used in conjunction with indigo.
Then we got down to business. Three indigo vats were set up and everyone did some practice samples of various shibori techniques. Participants were invited to bring material or clothing from home and each person had two silk scarves to work on. The results were spectacular! The blue that has captivated people’s imagination for millennia worked its magic in Brooklyn as well.