My Indigo Girls

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Using the segue from the colour theory discovery that it is hard to identify blue in nature, we spent this class talking about indigo. Indigo is about the only colour that I do ‘do’. I absolutely adore it. Indigo is also an amazing colour to explore scientifically, culturally and historically.

I set the scene by wearing an indigo top and headscarf and serving snack food and drinks in handmade, indigo-glazed ceramic bowls and cups. LM and her friend SC didn’t notice my covert efforts as indigo features in many of my clothes and most of our crockery.

We started with ‘movie day’ watching a short film (in Indian with French subtitles) about the Living Blue fair-trade, community initiative. You can find it here I linked this to the discussion of the Indigo Revolt in 1859 that challenged the physical and financial of oppression of Bengali peasants in order to supply indigo for trade via the British East India Company. I avoided a discussion of the scale of the violence, but we did discuss how the oppression of some people continues today so that wealthier people can have things. I told the girls how indigo clothing was coveted as its rarity and expense made it a status symbol.

I thought that all this might be a bit much for the girls but they had a discussion about how silly it is to ‘show off’ by buying things, especially if you know that other people are treated badly so you can have them. The girls then realised they were drinking and eating from indigo crockery and asked if they were made by people that suffering. I explained that some were from op-shops and so I don’t know, but that my friend Pete made the others in her backyard. There was relief on their little faces. I didn’t mean to guilt them!

We then moved eagerly onto the Science and Nature part of the day. We watched a video about the three plants that can be used to make indigo and how incredibly time-consuming, labour intensive and complex it is to create the dye. From there we watched another youtube about the science of fabric dyeing using indigo. I learned a lot from that one! I am amazed that the dye doesn’t colour the fabric, but that it actually gets trapped in the fabric when it hits oxygen and expands. Mind. Blown.

Our focus then shifted to the artisans that dye the fabrics and create products. I showed the girls the creative techniques used in making a traditional Indian Kantha as well as Japanese Shibori. Surprising them with the news that I have ordered ten metres of ethically made indigo dyed fabric that we can make a small range of products from. I was thinking clothing, but LM immediately designed a range of homewares so… we’ll see. We may even order some indigo powder and get our ‘shibori’ on.

I see a pair of homemade baggy indigo overalls in my future.



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