In the Japanese language, indigo is known as Ai 藍…
interestingly, Ai 愛 (the same sound, different written depiction) in Japanese also means love.
The significance of this resonates with me on many levels, but I will say here that, for those who have experienced it, the process of growing blue–from seed to plant, to harvest, to pigment, to dye–is unquestionably a labor of love. It asks of us time, knowledge, patience, hard work, openness, and devotion.
Each step through the season becomes part of a dance that cultivates an ever-deepening appreciation for the magic and mystery of the natural world and the secrets held within…
There are two more kanji/pictographs associated with the sound “Ai” in Japanese: 間 Ai-da and 相 Ai. These refer to space/time, and relationships/togetherness, respectively… love, space, time, relationships, togetherness, and Indigo. This collection of meanings, all associated with the same spoken word, amazes and intrigues me.
As with all tangible things, we each must learn through experience, and there is no substitute for the intimate time and practice devoted year after year to a chosen art form. Throughout that process, sharing with and learning from others can help guide us to a more refined and focused succession of questions and answers in our own work, and unlock perspectives that may otherwise have remained hidden from us in solitary practice. Community, relationships, love, and time all offer valuable insights that nourish us along the way, and certainly the immense amount of dedication required in a craft can be made even more precious and meaningful through mutual appreciation and aspirations among peers.
In the spirit of Ai, my hope with this upcoming series of articles is to share some observations, and considerations that have helped me, and continue to guide me, as I refine my methods of indigo production to make the most of the intense amount of time, labor, and love I pour into the process each year, and the space I make for indigo in my heart, life, land, and mind. In the relative scheme of things, I am young, and very new to this path… I know there will be those reading this article who have been growing indigo and dyeing with it for many more decades than I have. I warmly welcome comments below and in the chapters to follow, and encourage those of you reading to share your questions, observations, and experiences, so everyone can benefit.
For those interested in refining your indigo processing from seed to dye, coming up we will take a look at this Labor of Love, and how to make the most of your indigo harvest.
I read every comment and will set aside time to answer any questions below. Please know that once you submit a comment, it will a few days for it to show up on the post, as I have a spam filter that requires I approve all comments before they are published–thank you for your patience!
Hello, and thanks for visiting! Please do not use my photos or any other site content without prior written permission. All photos and site content are under copyright protection and are solely my property, unless otherwise noted.