The color is the thing implored my natural dye instructor but I could not imagine a practice focused solely on creating and showcasing a color, especially not indigo since its blues have cultivated a controversial, cult following for centuries. What could I add to this history and contemporary conversation?
The blues of indigo are achieved through oxidation. Have you ever tie-dyed? Or spilled a glass of red wine? Picture the way the dye color immediately adheres to the cloth - your t-shirt becomes a swirl of colors, the carpet a deep red.
Indigo doesn't stick to fiber in the same way; when you dip a piece of cloth into a bucket of indigo dye it emerges yellow and then begins turning blue, an alchemical relationship between dye and air.
My son lost oxygen during birth, resulting in a severe brain injury that led to multiple severe disabilities. In the days following his birth, I thought a lot about the particular beauty of indigo.
Dear friends and farmers at Little Big Sky in rural Minnesota planted a small crop of Japanese indigo on their land, kickstarting an evolving, annual gesture that continues today, only now on our land.
We moved from Chicago to a country house a few miles from Little Big Sky.
Developing an indigo practice has become synonymous with my process of healing the trauma around my son's birth, or near death. It's slow. I can only face bits of the trauma at a time. After planting indigo in our garden plot, I struggled to harvest or process it. Rather than push through before I was ready, I made a series of cyanotypes and drawings of the crop at the end of the growing season to at least have a record of it. I don't know, do other people skirt around, circle back, approach, retreat from their trauma? Probably.
Taking a cue from local legend and functional potter Warren MacKenzie, this year I am working toward establishing a small scale functional fiber indigo dye studio. Over the winter I collected everyday and upcycled linens to dye and overdye in small batches to sell at affordable prices.
This way I can quietly infiltrate homes with a living metaphor of the beauty and necessity of the lives of people with disabilities, an ordinary, haptic message from one mother that every body belongs during a time when eugenics still have traction. I hope it will also distill such a powerful topic, both personally and politically, into something approachable that I can do, and keep doing, into the future.