Last week I attended Selvedge Magazine's The Pattern Issue launch at The New Craftsmen in London's Mayfair. Selvedge is a publication I've been a fan of since it's very first issue back in the early 2000s. I look forward to each new issue and would describe the magazine as a carefully curated, beautifully presented, bi-monthly textiles treasure trove in print.
The New Craftsmen however, I was unfamiliar with until very recently and had never visited their Mayfair premises until this point. What a revelation! It's a stunning space; well laid out and filled (but not too full) with incredible products that have been hand crafted by artisans at the top of their game.
People milled around, glass of bubbly clutched in hand, admiring the thoroughly original homewares, furniture, textiles and jewellery on display. But soon everyone's attention was drawn towards the intriguing sight of Katherine May demonstrating the strange and wonderful alchemy that is natural indigo dyeing.
Seeing the blue stained wooden spoons laid out on the table next to her instantly brought back memories from a time when, two decades ago, I became rather obsessed with natural dyeing. Having not really practised it since then, I'd forgotten how magical the whole process is. A million miles away from chemical dyeing, indigo dyeing is a subtle, malleable art form. As Katherine demonstrated to us, the end result and depth of colour is controlled by the number and duration of dips into the indigo mixture. In fact it is the dipped fabric's exposure to air that turns it blue through oxidisation. A crowd huddled round as she lifted the green cloth out of the dye bath and we watched with satisfaction as green turned to inimitable indigo blue.
Appropriately, in this latest issue 63 of Selvedge, is an article about the work of Jane Callender, a textile artist who relies on indigo to create incredibly intricate patterns in her work. She practises the Japanese art-form of shibori, which creates dye resistance patterns by cleverly stitching, binding and or clamping the fabric (there are many different forms of the tradition).
As you can see from my own textiles designs, colour is one of my absolute passions already, but this evening revived a long lost love of natural dyeing which I soon hope to experiment with in my own work. And indigo? Indigo is something I'm totally in love with right now; I've even created a new Pinterest board to revel in its beauty: