Thursday 30 July 2009

Indigo Dyed Cloth from Mashiko, Japan

Two years ago it was my delight to visit the traditional dye workshop in Mashiko, out in the country not far from Tokyo. I found the workshop quite by chance, since I had gone to Mashiko with the intention of visiting the workshop of Shoji Hamada, teacher of Bernard Leach who has always been a guiding light for me in terms of craftmanship. The workshop is almost alfresco, having only a simple thatched canopy.

Here are rows of indigo dyeing pits. The indigo plant is fermented in the pits and matured until it is ready to take the fabrics for dyeing. And I always have to ask myself - just how did they discover that? And how did people find out the properties of aluminium silicate in mordanting, or yeast in bread?
After seeing the wonderful shades of indigo and knowing the baggage allowance I had, it was a tricky decision whether to go home with my husband or trade him in for extra baggage the end I settled for some small glass mats with as many different patterns as I could find. I know where my heart lies, but my love for indigo was truly born on that visit.


  1. Gosh, I love indigo-dyed things!! These are so gorgeous!

    As for Hamada-san and Mr. Leach, that brings back fond memories of highschool from ten years ago. My dear teacher was so into them. How does it go? "Between fire and clay is Man."? Ah, such good times!

  2. It's a fascinating thing isn't it? The blend of science and art.