Celia Geraedts is a font of knowledge on the traditional indigo dying processes native to Japan.
Keen to share this knowledge she runs classes through her showroom in the heart of Amsterdam. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to join a class when I visited the city earlier this spring!
It All Begins With the Indigo Vat
When you walk into Blue Print Amsterdam you feel a very different vibe to the busy street you just stepped off.
The space is full of indigo dyed pieces from contemporary indigo denim jeans to vintage Japanese kimonos and everything in between.
Standing in the middle is the heart and soul of Blue Print Amsterdam: the indigo vat. This is where the class starts.
Our first task of the day is to top up the indigo in the vat. Celia takes us through all the steps in taking the raw indigo dye in its powder form to a concentrated solution ready to mix into the vat.
The Characteristic Smell of Indigo
We also learn all about the Indigofera plant itself, where it is grown, and how it is turned from a huge amount to leaves into the blue powder sitting in front of us.
Given the odour wafting up from the mixture it is not hard to believe that there is a lot of cow urine involved. Be glad no one has invented scratch and sniff internet!
Rediscovering and Reinventing Forgotten Techniques in Amsterdam
Being a graphic artist and brand identity designer to trade, Celia use hand done, craft techniques to create unique aesthetics and designs in her own work. Her distinctive style has caught the attention of big names in the denim industry, such as Levi’s and Denham.
Celia’s fascination with indigo and the Japanese dying craft was cemented when she spent a month in the small Japanese village Fujino, just outside Tokyo, learning the craft from true artisans.
She brought her knowledge back to Europe and Blue Print Amsterdam: the goal of the showroom is to rediscover and reinvent forgotten techniques.
Celia doesn’t dogmatically adhere to one process, but combines many differing techniques such as screen printing and other old dyeing and printing processes.
Tie-Dye On Steroids: Different Dying Methods
While the vat mixture is settling for an hour or so, Celia opens our eyes to the possibilities indigo dying can offer.
It is not simply dunking in a piece of fabric; with various methods you block off areas of the fabric from the indigo dye. This is tie-dye, on steroids!
The Itajime shibori method uses wooden shapes and blocks, clamped together they stop the dye reaching specific parts of the cloth.
The Katazome method uses the same principle; you use a medium to stop the dye reaching a specific part of the cloth. With this technique rice paste is used. It is painted on in whatever patterns you choose.
I decided to try the Katazome method.
After a little cutting I applied the rice paste to the scarf I was dying. Then into the vat it went.
The area where the rice past was applied went in for three dips, the middle section for six. This created a subtle but distinct colour change throughout the scarf.
I was joined on the course by Lennaert Nijgh from Benzak Denim Developers and Rozemarijn Brancovich. ‘Roos’ is the owner of Toile de Chine and also works as a freelancer for Kings of Indigo designing their womenswear.
Lennaert tried the simple dipping. His shirt went for the full 12 dips. Roos went for the Itajime shibori. Both results were beautiful!
All of the pieces went into the washing machine on a gentle cycle. This removes the excess dye and more importantly the odour.
At the end of the day all three of us were rewarded with truly unique pieces.
Indigo is the heart and soul of a blue jean. It creates our fades, it tells our stories and it speaks to the history of denim jeans itself.
This workshop adds another dimension to my fascination with denim. I learned so much in such a short time. To have had hands-on experience with indigo dye lends a whole new perspective to putting on a pair of jeans.
If you are in the area I wouldn’t hesitate to pop into the Blue Print Amsterdam store. It will be open until the 27th of April. If you are a little too far away you can find details on Celia’s work as well as a webshop on Blue Print Amsterdam’s website here.
All images courtesy of Sanne Verhoeven and Matt Wilson