Friday, 28 November 2014

Dyeing Leather With Indigo.

There have been a few guys at the house the past year trying to get an idea of how to dye leather with indigo. I don' have that much direct experience but keep an eye on the experiments going on in the indigo vats.

There is a huge difference in how different leathers take the indigo. Of course the leather should not be treated with anything. The key is to have the leather well wet before dyeing. A few hours in warm water to be safe. Brushing the leather with a soft brush in the water helps to get in wet evenly so the dye job will be even.

The indigo should be top condition. Keep the leather under the indigo for at least five minutes. Not the average one or two minutes. Oxidise for at least ten minutes then rinse the leather thoroughly and brush it lightly to take off any indigo pigment that is simple caught up in the fibres of the leather but not actually attached to the leather. Repeat this until you get the depth of colour you want. Remember the leather looks dark but will dry several shades lighter.

To neutralise the alkalinity of the indigo before it damages the leather and shrinks up nastily, wash and wash and rinse the leather. Use whatever kind of cream etc. that you usually use to keep some suppleness.  If the leather is not taking the indigo well let the object dry and wait a few days before repeating the process.

The indigo makes a simple mechanical bond with the leather like it does with blue jeans. It will abrade off. This cannot be helped. Sealants etc. can help but the indigo leather will weather. Calculate this into your design aesthetic and make sure your client knows this well before selling.

Jonathan, (Bandana Almanac fame. was here yesterday from Osaka to dye some leather boot uppers.  They looked great and look forward to wearing a pair in a few months. The order will end up in Chicago.

Leather can successfully be dyed with indigo. It takes some experimenting and understanding the properties of both the indigo and the leather being dyed.  It is possible to use stencil dyeing with leather. Don't expect crisp clear lines though.

Jonathan carefully starts the dyeing.

Mid dye.

Five dips later and ready to dry. I would't wear good light coloured socks with these boots at first.

How could I write about indigo leather dyeing without including a picture of the belt I wear almost every day. Hand carved with a sketch of the indigo vat it was dyed in at the tip, preceded by lotus, carp and bamboo and a chrysanthemum images. (Thanks to the Irish carver out there in Italy.)

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The blog has been quiet but not the house.

I didn't have time to write enough on the exhibition in Europe. Barbara's sharp curating eye did a good job with the old advertising towels I persimmon dyed and patched together to resemble knock off buddhist kesas. It was good to catch up with old friends in Liechtenstein. Muriel and Ullie travelling all that way to spend a few precious hours.  Mark driving up from Italy to lend his uber talented hands to the whole effort. Thank you all for all the help and support.

Rickie Lee Jones says it best:

I'm soulful and grateful and gleeful
Hey, hey yeah
Caught me in its ray

Tender moments at the indigo vat in Liechtenstein when a beautiful mother traces an indigo tattoo on her beautiful son's arm.

After coming back from Liechtenstein in late September the house has been full of students and the indigo vats have not been lonely.

Hundreds of photos taken by myself and friends...I can't keep track of them.

We visited Noguschi san's stencil paradise three times this autumn.

97 year old Ogata san comes by and makes udon for us for lunch on Tuesdays.

Hiro fills the house with his magic flower arrangements.

There is always that last midnight silk cocoon reeling demonstration because we are behind schedule and the workshop wouldn't be the workshop without it. And the last second group picture.

And of course students work. There were too many works to document. I lose sometimes. The students bring originality and determination. get first prize for your mokume shibori and your repeat stencil was amazing. 

The good will of the workshop members who travel from all corners of the planet to spend time at my house overwhelms me. Thank you all. You give my life meaning. Thank you.

There are moments of calm now. Momo gets some reading done and the light shines peacefully thought the kitchen waiting for the fun to start again.

Click to see full images.