Is there a colour that makes your heart quicken, that makes you feel an aching in your soul?
For me that colour is Indigo.
It is the colour of the bluest Provencal sky, the colour of the Atlantic ocean that I remember from my childhood days living by the beach in Donegal.
It is an ancient colour that breathes spirit into my dreams.
1800 Uzbekistan Silk Suzani
An Ancient natural dye – its penetrating colour has lasted centuries and is majestic and enduring despite the ravages of time.
Take this incredible 1800s Silk Suzani from Uzbekistan. Each female villager would embroider a section and then it would be pieced together and given as a wedding present to the future couple. The subtle differences in stitching and in the depth of the indigo dyed silk in the background makes it all the more powerful to me.
I think of all the dreams woven into each tiny looped embroidery stitch – hundreds of happy wishes for the future couple, a patchwork of dreams.
This suzani would have hung as a wall covering in the couples tent and travelled with them from one abode to the next until it made its way to the home of my collector friend.
Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers is really to blame, it’s all her fault. She prepared and nourished a delicious vat of organic indigo dye and invited me to ‘dive in’ and so I did. One afternoon was all it took to fall head over heels with natural indigo dying and over the course of hours I emptied my home of every single little scrap of white linen and lace.
It is absolutely and utterly addictive.
I felt alive and intensely connected in a primordial way to the process of dipping the linen into the deep midnight waters and then watching as the air transformed the creation from lightest green to darkest indigo.
If you ever want to know the essence of magic – try it out!
In the days and weeks after my first foray into Indigo dying – I saw the colour everywhere.
A vibrant indigo painted door in Goult. The sky above on a family outing to Roussillon.
You see – I wasn’t lying when I said I dyed everything I could get my hands on.
Indigo crept delightfully into my jewellery making and I surrended to the glorious colour.
At 6am one morning, far from home at a vide grenier / flea market – I happened upon three rolls of hand woven hemp from 1930s, being sold by the granddaughter of the weaver. The granddaughter had left Florence for Lyon, a newlywed in her early 20s, now in her 80s she found her eyesight wasn’t good enough to sew so she was giving her grandmothers material away to a new generation of maker. She told me her grandmother had gifted her with several rolls of this handwoven hemp, as Italian hemp was far superior to French hemp in her opinion. Oh how I love how these European neighbours fight over who is superior.
Thirty nine metres of hemp, folded in two and rolled neatly and kept in her attic for seventy or so years. Upon getting it home to Provence, I washed it thoroughly and then prepared a vat of indigo dye with my friend, textile artist Joanna Staniskis. We took over the square outside her home, inviting her neighbours to go fetch their stained and unwanted linens with a promise that we would make them beautiful.
One wonderful French lady in her 70s arrived down with her 30 year old sons old boxer shorts…. I have never laughed so much. I imagine he would be mortified to imagine our secret indigo society (aged 30-90) giggling each time his underwear would in and out of the indigo vat.
Indigo hand dyed silk threads woven through this antique 1800s silk tapestry sample from Maison Leclerc in Tours.
Can’t wait to share this wonderful universe with our French Muse retreat guests in May and September – we’ll be doing an indigo and shibori workshop working with antique linens!
If you are coming to Provence this summer and want to host a private Indigo and Shibori workshop with me then please drop me a line