In November, my fellow CSU student, Joe, and I delivered an interdisciplinary textile education workshop to the Colorado Art Educators Association in Breckenridge.
Joe is about to complete his degree in Chemistry education, and I am half-way through my MFA in Fibers. We combined our interests in chemistry and textiles to create a lesson plan that art teachers can use in their classrooms for ages 10-18. The textile portion of this workshop was a lesson in dyeing with indigo and using shibori resist methods. Although textiles make up very little of most K-12 art classroom curriculum, many textile techniques are dynamically helpful for children to learn skills in math, science and design thinking.
In our workshop, Joe and I discussed the origins of indigo dyeing and explained the difference between indigo that is processed from the plant, and pre-reduced indigo. We chose to demonstrate the use of pre-reduced indigo because of its ease of use as well as the fact that it requires much less harsh chemicals.
This tension between ease of use and preservation of tradition, gave Joe and I the opportunity to suggest questions that art educators may ask their older students in order to look deeper into these issues. We discussed the effects of synthetic indigo on the economies of communities that used to produce plant-based indigo and how this affects the stability of the tradition in those regions.
My favorite part of teaching indigo dyeing is watching the faces of first-timers as the fabric is removed from the dye-pot and slowly turns from green to blue. During the workshop, I demonstrated stirring techniques that keep oxygen out of the dye-pot while Joe described why oxygen is reduced in the dye-pot, and how oxygen changes the color of the fabric when it is taken out of the dye-pot.
The art educators that came to our workshops were eager to learn and put our ideas into practice in their classrooms. I’m excited to see what students learn through the rich and challenging tradition of Indigo dyeing.