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Byron Shire
June 19, 2021

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The colour that changed the world

Indigo classes in Byron Bay to be conducted by internationally recognised local artist.

It is the colour of the sky above us and our beautiful ocean waters. Blue is the colour that changed the world, the colour of controversy. Not just any old blue, but indigo blue.  Associated with political power or religious ritual, indigo has held a significant place in many world civilizations for thousands of years.

Traditionally derived from plants, it is also surrounded by dispute and mystique. Indigo continues to inspire creativity today.

Susan Fell Mclean, from Mullumbimby, whose work has been shown in many international exhibitions, is inspired by indigo dye. “When combined with the amazing art form of shibori”  Susan says, “ such beauty can be created” .  She will be conducting a workshop early in December. Shibori is the Japanese word for folding, pleating, wrapping, stitching and binding fabric to resist dye. With indigo dye, and resultant patterns are stunningly blue and white”.

Indigo  is a strange alchemy”  Susan tells of her intrigue in how a liquid that's a yellowy-green colour can turn fabrics, especially cotton, blue. …it is real  alchemy, there is a fermentation process, and then in the actual dyeing,  a magical moment,  when fabric is taken from the vat (the dye liquid) – it looks a stunning yellowish green colour, then as the fabric takes in a big  breath of oxygen, it quite quickly starts to turn blue - its always a little unpredictable, and always fascinating”.

Indigo was used to colour the pharoahs' clothing, in the excavation of Thebes an indigo garment dating around 2500 B.C. was found. The Hindu god Krishna is most often depicted in blue, human sacrifices were often painted blue in ancient Mayan culture, and the Virgin Mary is draped in blue clothes in Christian art.  Indigo is mentioned in manuscripts dating from the 4th century BC.  India was a primary supplier of indigo to Europe as early as the Greco-Roman era. The Romans used indigo as a pigment for painting and for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It was a luxury item imported to the Mediterranean from India by Arab merchants.

It is hard to imagine a colour being responsible for riots in India, (the Blue Mutiny).  In 1666/7 a young Isaac Newton added indigo to the colours of the spectrum,  changing the understanding of a rainbow forever from 5 colours to 7. It became the blue of European military uniforms  and fashionable items like blue satin  Since the birth of synthesised colour in 1856 when (in a search for a cure for malaria), a compound in coal tar was discovered for fabric dyeing, most indigo used in the colouration of denim jeans has been man made.

Shibori, too, has an equally interesting story to tell. Historically it is absolutely fascinating, with African, Indian and Japanese shaped resits in many forms.  Susan’s focus, however, is more on interpretations made by other contemporary artists throughout the world. Within the coming workshop, she will show her own work, and share her extensive resources.

Susan has undertaken research of shibori and indigo for many years, and has enjoyed the good fortune to attended workshops with master dyers in Japan and France. She will be sharing her enthusiasm for indigo in a workshop on Dec 7 & 8th. “All Blues – Indigo Shibori”. People might like to come to one or both days, anyone participating for two days will receive a discount.

Susan speaks of the joy participants express when they unfold their works to reveal beautiful blue and white designs from their shibori. Participants in her workshops use silk, wool, cotton and hemp to create beautiful pieces.

Contact Susan by phoning 66846168
Email [email protected]

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