ArtAndes Blog

Indigo; The Royal Color Blue

Posted December 4, 2018 @ 10:55pm | by Melanie

During the November Peru trip, It was especially fun to focus on the interests of the White Bear Center for the Arts, Weisman Art Museum &  Minnesota Museum of Art. All trip members were connected to one if not all, in a major way. I learned SO much from our two weeks together. 
The trip was also alot of fun. Fun like being part of the Indigo dye process in Chinchero. Indigo is among the oldest dyes to be used for textile dyeing and printing. The oldest known fabric dyed indigo dating to 6,000 years ago was discovered in 2009 in Peru. Our textile amigas love the royal color blue, Peru can not grow enough to meet their demands, so Indigo was a natural present to bring them. (A friend in Seattle imports a good quality from India) I suggested we bring our own stale urine as an offering to be part of the color transformation process, but no takers!
The use of Indigo is very complex and a time consuming process. In addition to high quality Indigo, one also needs to ferment urine for at least 6 weeks. The traditional indigo vat is a fermentation process. In its most basic form, all you need is natural indigo, stale urine, and a warm temperature for the fermentation. The urine provides both the nutrients to nurture the bacteria which reduce the indigo, and also the ammonia which creates the alkaline solution.

It is listed in the United States as FD&C/ Blue No. 2

Many indigo plantations were established by European powers in tropical climates. Spain imported the dye from its colonies in South America, and it was a major crop in Haiti and Jamaica, with much or all of the labor performed by enslaved Africans and African Americans. 
In North America indigo was introduced into South Carolina, where it became the states second-most important cash crop after rice. When Benjamin Franklin sailed to France in 1776 to enlist France's support for the American Revolutionary War, 35 barrels of indigo were on board, the sale of which would help fund the war effort. Because of its high value as a trading commodity, indigo was often referred to as blue gold.

40 co-op members stale urine, the key ingredient to Royal Blue!



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