Indigo: A Labor of Love



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: Ai-da and 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.


10 Responses

  1. Heather Podoll
    | Reply

    Kori, this is really exciting to know you will be sharing more about your indigo work and creating space for collaboration and community conversation! Thank you for all you have done to inspire so many of us to dive headlong into this love-filled work!

  2. Janie
    | Reply

    This summer is the first time I have grown Japanese Indigo from seed & dyed with it! What an amazing feeling – I am in love with the teal to aqua colors. Also, I was surprised to get a greenish yellow from the dye once the blue has been used up. It has taken me 2 years of researching, searching for a seed source & finally producing a few plants. ❤️❤️❤️

  3. George Fukuda
    | Reply

    Brilliantly & beautifully written, t’is always better when the journey be a journey of love. 私は藍も愛する。イーメルどもありがとうごじます。ゆろしくおねがい足します。

  4. Caryn
    | Reply

    Just love(ly) I m growing indigo too learning non the way

  5. Caryn
    | Reply

    Just love(ly) I m growing indigo too learning on the way

  6. Lisa
    | Reply

    I’m into my 3rd year of growing Japanese Indigo in the SF East Bay – every step of the process makes me so happy: from planting the seeds I saved from the year before, to harvesting in the garden early in the cool morning, to sharing the dye process with friends, to watching that lovely color transform my fiber. I’m looking forward to reading your future posts, sharing information, and being inspired!

  7. Bonnie Klatt
    | Reply

    Wonderful, Kori! I am eager to read your future chapters on this.

  8. Piper Miles
    | Reply

    Thank you for the lovely words about craft. As a new hand weaver, I completely appreciate those whom have experience and wisdom to share with me as I learn. And as new dye garden grows with indigo in it this year, we are thrilled to join the ranks of those, like us, who seek more knowledge of this mysterious and marvelous plant.

  9. Liz Spencer
    | Reply

    Kori! You’re such an inspiration! I can’t wait to meet you soon. Thank you so much for these detailed, accurate, well written and beautifully illustrated/photo accompanied posts!
    A few questions that I thought you might know the answer to, that I thought I’d ask here before I open to the IndiGrowing Blue Facebook page. I know you are extracting your indigo for true blues, but I’ve been trying to figure why fresh leaf indigo fares so exceptionally well with silk over wool. In my experience it’s always so much more vibrant and deep on silk than any other wool or animal fiber. Do you think maybe it’s the chemical reaction between the structure of the silk protein and the indican that is somehow different than with the amino acids of the protein structure of wool? And also, is freah leaf dyeing just a simple case of indican being whipped and aerated (in a blender) whereby enzymatic hydrolysis to indoxyl is skipped and some of the indican is then transformed into indigotin (but at a much less efficient rate than if the leaves were allowed to ferment to fully extract the indican- hydrolysis to indoxyl and glucose)? And what have you seen for the lightfastness of your fresh leaf indigo dyed silks? Mine have stood up fairly well I believe. Is it the chlorophyl combination with the indigo that gives the pretty aqua green blues?

  10. Deb
    | Reply

    Hi, may put your blog in my list of blog links. You write beautifully and your info is good. I would love to put your work in my reference section of my blog. Regards Den McClintock

Leave a Reply