This two-week intensive with Aboubakar Fofana at the Threads of Life studio in Bali offers a unique farm-to-fiber experience of the world’s three traditions of indigo processing and use, and the four arts behind these traditions. Working with fresh Strobilanthes cusia from the Threads of Life dye gardens, you will make Mali-style dried indigo balls and prepare a fermentation vat, make indigo pigment and prepare a fructose-pigment vat, and make indigo paste with slaked lime then prepare a tamarind-paste vat. Through this work you will learn the arts of extracting the dye from the plants, preparing a vat with the dyes, dyeing the fiber, and maintaining a dye vat.
You will also see that these arts and crafts of indigo are not exact sciences. Weather, season and location affect outcomes. Performing three indigo methods side-by-side will grant us the opportunity to compare and contrast them. The fructose-pigment vat is more chemistry than biology and tends to be reliable. The fermentation vat is almost all biology and while it produces the richest colours, the bacteria involved do not always perform reliably. The tamarind-paste vat falls somewhere in between.
The program is of two, intensive 5-day sessions separated by a necessary rest weekend. The first 5 days will focus on making the dyes, preparing the vats, and learning to dye for gradation of color. The second 5 days will start with yarn dyeing and continue with personal creative projects. While this workshop will appeal to practicing indigo dyers, it is also appropriate for the beginner: all that is required is the willingness to apply yourself and the curiosity to explore.
Aboubakar Fofana was born in Mali and raised in France, and is a calligrapher, textile designer, artist and master dyer. His work is motivated by a love for the natural world and its cycles and rhythms, a deep concern for the environment, and a vision to share the luxury and beauty of goods produced using indigenous materials and techniques whilst helping to reinvigorate and sustain important traditions. His atelier is in Bamako, Mali, and he regularly travels the world giving workshops and lectures, and meeting others who work with natural dyes and textiles.
At the Threads of Life dye studio and dye garden in Ubud, Bali, we teach and produce with dye recipes we have learned from across the Indonesian archipelago, collaborating as peers with the master dyers we work with in the field. Aboubakar and Threads of Life share an approach to natural dyeing that seeks plant-sourced dyes by plant-sourced processes and avoids synthetic additives or mordents. And where Aboubakar finds the root of this approach in his West African animistic heritage, our staff dyers find their inspiration in the animistic practices articulated through Indonesia’s indigenous textile traditions. Bringing these two traditions together promises to be a vibrant and exciting experience.
• Morning and evening transfers to and from the workshop location at the Threads of Life dye studio (Umajati Retreat).
• Workshop time from 10:00-1:00 and 2:00-5:00 each day, dye materials, fabric and yarn for workshop exercises.
• Lunch from 1:00-2:00 at the studio. Free flow drinking water, tea and coffee throughout the day.
• International airfares are not included.
• Accommodations in Ubud are not included, and we recommend that participants find a place to stay along the route of the morning and evening shuttle between Ubud and the workshop location at Umajati Retreat. The shuttle route is marked in red on the location map below.
• Limited to 15 participants.
• Minimum of 10 participants. Participants will be informed once minimum participation is achieved and are advised not to book airfares until the workshop is confirmed. If minimum participation is not reached by 30 October 2022 the workshop may be cancelled and all workshop fees returned.
03-05 March 2023: Days 1-3
Setting the vat
• Mali indigo fermentation vat
• Fructose indigo pigment vat
• Tamarind indigo paste vat
Preparing the dye
• Pigment making from fresh leaf
• Paste making from fresh leaf
• Mali indigo ball making from fresh leaf
06-07 March 2023: Days 4-5
Dyeing the fiber
• Dyeing for gradation of colour on cloth
08-09 March 2023: Days 6-7
10 March 2023: Day 8
Dyeing the fiber
• Yarn dyeing
11-14 March 2023: Days 9-12
Personal creative projects