I found myself staring at a rumpled cluster of cotton scarves, hanging uselessly in my back room. These were prototypes of my printed designs. Some had gone on, to be reprinted in silk and sold at boutiques around Marin and San Francisco. Some had been discarded; experiments that never moved forward.
I thought, “I can’t just leave them here. I have to transform them into something new.”
The color indigo has been on my mind, a conscious pursuit and an unconscious unrest of color, asserting itself into my thoughts.
I get like this sometimes. Obsessive, impulsive, manic. Colors often manifest as moods. I’m blaming this latest indigo madness on what seems to be an early descent into fall. It’s the end of August, and the skies are grey; a blend of moisture overcast and remnants of the burning north. Our State has been on fire now for weeks, and the smoke is like a dragon’s breath of malcontent lurking on the horizon.
So, I chose indigo, a color that to me implies mystery, magic, and that the darker seasons had appeared. I felt a need to work with the color, and made my way to down to the Dharma Trading Company in San Rafael, a wonderful resource of dyes and fibers.
I remember the fateful day I first stepped through Dharma’s glass door into a world of colored yarns. Instantly I felt myself transported, like a Prince come to a foreign port of commerce. Heaps of colors organized in soothing and seductive rows. Skeins of beauty waiting for me to plunge my hands into their soft depths and make things.
That first trip to Dharma led me to become a textile designer, down a modern day silk road of exploration and art. I found myself there again, this time seeking dyes, and had to repress the urge to explore the many shelves of fibers. Walking through the store is like walking through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. You daren’t look to the side, for if you do, then you are lost. Whether by means of a bullying merchant or the lack of self control that comes when confronted by an intoxicating row of skeins it is best to keep your eyes forward toward your task.
I wrestled the impulse to wander and shop, and instead circled to the back of the building and the dye walls. Here the shopping is much easier, for the dyes come in dark jars and do not reveal their colorful secrets. I hunted for the proper blend, for I wanted an indigo leaning towards purple, the color of a D Block tanzanite. Imperial purple seemed the best bet, and an indigo blue.
My dye purchases in hand I swiftly left and headed home to work a witch's bath. Up in my garage with buckets and ladles and the rolling door rolled open I stood and stirred. When the mailman came he mistook my activities for the brewing of beer. Purple beer might indeed be a hit amongst hipsters and the recent hops craze of artisanal craft breweries that have crept across the city, but I would not be the man to make such a thing. Instead, into the pot went my cotton goods.
After an otherwise eventless dyeing, and with slightly purpled hands, I had my scarves and a couple cotton t-shirts before me. The results were astounding. What I love about over dyeing is the uncertain outcome. I had taken red scarves and turned them mauve with an ombre into violet. White and beige became the true indigo, with the patterns upon them rendered dark and strange.
The result was a successful resurrection of discarded textiles into a wave of indigo that has, for now at least, settled this latest bout of what I’m coming to call Design Madness.
Until the next time…