The Way of Indigo by Ishii Takayuki


The Way of Indigo by Ishii Takayuki


From the book’s introduction:

This book illustrates an innovative method of producing Sukumo (fermented indigo leaves) and indigo dyeing vats from a small quantity of leaves, an approach that has never been explored before.

Since the Edo Period, Japanese indigo has been practiced and passed on by Sukumo artisans called Aishi.

Because the methods of the artisans were largely based on the personal interactions between them and the indigo, no documents with numbered instructions exist to follow today. Also, Sukumo making was considered a large-scale process, and producing Sukumo with less than 500kg of dried leaves (around 1102 lbs) was thought to be impossible.

However, with the decreased number and retirement of older artisans, and the increase in demand, the balance between demand and supply of Sukumo has been thrown off. There are more cases where interested and passionate people do not have access to natural Sukumo indigo dyeing. Ten years ago, I also struggled to obtain Sukumo for my personal use.

The Sukumo recipe I introduce here is a product of my numerous visits to various places and artisans in Japan over ten years. This vast compilation is my original work, where I made the impossible possible by utilizing the traditional practices acquired through studying traditional Sukumo making with artisans. The purpose of presenting my work to you is solely based on my hope that you will feel the life in the Sukumo and see the beauty in this method of indigo dyeing. Once you are introduced to the world of natural Sukumo indigo dyeing, I guarantee that you will not want to dye with indigo using any other method.

That being said, this book is merely a guideline. Sukumo indigo dyeing is affected by land, environment, water, humidity, temperature, and so on. Because Sukumo is a living thing, you may not always succeed even if you follow the recipe. I suggest you first follow the guidelines but keep trying new ways to adjust your Sukumo indigo dyeing method to the environment you live in.

I hope your way of indigo will be brightly lit.

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About this collaboration

Takayuki Ishii is an indigo dye artisan who was born in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. He currently owns a workshop in the mountainous area of Kanagawa Prefecture, where he runs an indigo dyeing company using traditional techniques and materials.

Takayuki started contemplating about a sustainable society right after the nuclear power plant accident during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and knew about indigo dyeing. Polluted water used in chemical dyeing flows through the river to the sea and destroys the ecosystem. However, the indigo dye that he uses is a sustainable and natural pigment that can become fertilizer for the land or food for the fishes.

Takayuki studied indigo dyeing at an indigo dyeing workshop in Tokyo, and then visited many workshops in different parts of Japan to acquire even more knowledge and techniques on indigo dyeing. He also learned and mastered all the procedures necessary for traditional Japanese textile dyeing: yarn, fabric, katazome, shibori, tsutsugaki,batik, and others.


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