Sketchbook: Indigo

Tuesday 30th
As part of the indigo dye day (see 3-Jan-2015 and Claire’s post here) we experimented with dipping paper into the vat.

20141230aFollowing Claire’s lead I dipped some small cards, then stamped, clipped, brushed, flicked…
20141230bI folded some A3 cartridge paper into a nice little package and dipped that. The indigo didn’t penetrate into the folds, so it was back to flicking and dripping.

Wednesday 31st
20141231aAn uninspiring day. Larger samples of mark making on both cartridge and kraft paper didn’t excite.

20141231bA “fishbone” fold from “Folding Architecture: Spatial, Structural and Organizational Diagrams” by Sophia Vyzoviti looked good plain, but after dipping the folds were muddled rather than enhanced and when flattened – boring. Other folding attempts were even less interesting.

Thursday 1st20150101a
I did a repeat of the fishbone sculptural folds – this time remembering to take a “before” picture, plus dipping on one side only and being more careful of drips, wanting to make the indigo highlight the shaping of the paper. A much better outcome than the previous day.

20150101eAnother type of folding also came from Vyzoviti’s book. This is like the folded paper game we did as children, where you wrote little saying under the flaps – but it’s a double version. I found it very challenging to fold (there’s a small cut you have to make which is critical), and the results are under-whelming.

20150101bA new experiment looked at using various white oil/wax drawing implements as resists – sennelier oil pastel, two kinds of children’s crayons, and a candle. The oil pastel was the least effective in resisting the indigo, but produced an interesting texture in the line where it worked. The candle wax was the most effective. I dipped twice to get the A3 cartridge paper covered, and the area of overlap overwhelmed most of the marks. Not much to show, except for some of the lovely, complex marking produced by a simple dip into indigo of basically flat paper.

Friday 2nd
20150101cI continued the “history of folds on the page” line of inquiry with a fold based on Ralph Matthew’s origami butterfly (link). I added some extra folds in an attempt to complicate the final patterning, and tied with string. I think the result is finally getting somewhere. Note importance of complex folds, with a large part of the surface of one side of paper either fully exposed or in a simple tuck rather than folded in.

20150101dFor the drawn resist inquiry I chose candle on A3 cartridge paper, and did a quick sketch of myself – challenging in white on white! The drawn resist gave a ghost face emerging from the indigo.
Saturday 3rd
20150102aReturning to yesterday’s drawn resist I thought it was a bit too indistinct, and found I could easily scrape the indigo off the wax areas using my nail or paper clip (it was nearby) – but the result was too white, too sharp edged. A gentle rub with a toothbrush was better, although I think I should have stopped sooner. Could I cover a page with rubbed candle wax, dip into indigo, then “sketch” by removing indigo selectively?

20150102bThis led to two more experiments.
First a candle wax sketch of my husband. The basic process used was the same, but I was very gentle and more selective about rubbing over waxed areas to remove indigo. I think this is my best result to date, although that ear is a real problem.

20150102cThat’s fortunate because the second idea was a failure. I rubbed candle wax over the “full” surface of an A3 sheet of cartridge paper (110gsm – the same used in most of the experiments). After dipping into indigo and drying I tried a number of tools to draw into the blue. Would you believe there is a face in there? The surface was just too inconsistent and too fragile, I couldn’t draw a line or shape effectively.

Having found that simple (non-waxed) indigo-dipped paper made a very nice base for drawing with conte crayons I decided to make a small sketchbook. Potentially it could contain:

  • “plain” dipped paper
  • wax rubbed then dipped paper
  • paper edged with an indigo treatment
  • separation pages of baking paper (to stop the crayon transferring), possibly with a decorative indigo treatment
  • Sunday 4th – Monday 5th
    20150104aIt took a couple of days to dye and make, but here is my latest sketching journal. The cover is a creamy rice paper behind mulberry bark (indigo dyed of course). It’s roughly A5 in size. The binding is coptic stitch in a natural coloured waxed linen thread. The stitching is uneven – there are only 3 sections, so not enough to build up a rhythm – but I really like the patterning given by the mulberry bark. It seems very appropriate for this book.

    20150104bIn the end I kept it simple – each section effectively has 12 A5 pages of indio-dipped cartridge paper, with all pages separated by baking paper which is mostly just indigo dipped at the edges with more patterning at the start and end of each section.

    I’ve started using the journal, but it will probably be a couple of weeks before I can show results now holidays are over and I’m back at work.

    10 Responses to “Sketchbook: Indigo”


    1. 1 Nola January 10, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Following your and Claire’s indigo experiments with great interest! I know you are interested in the traditional blue and white effects of indigo, but I can help but wonder what would happen if you used a coloured wax candle(or even coloured wax crayon) for your line experiments. Easier to control where the line goes, as you can see it, but a different effect when dyed? Perhaps not something that grabs you right now though…

    2. 2 Nola January 10, 2015 at 5:04 pm

      Forgot to say that I really like both the book and the self portrait!

    3. 3 fibresofbeing January 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Brilliant ideas Nola. I’ve just come in from playing with the vat. Coloured crayons can be tomorrow’s experiment.

    4. 5 starrybird January 11, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Dear Judy, I find your work rally inspiring and your could tempt me to take the textiles course! I love your final portrait here, exactly because of its lack of definition. I love the ghostly form. More power to your elbow….


    1. 1 Indigo sketchbook | Fibres of Being Trackback on February 8, 2015 at 5:36 pm
    2. 2 T1-MMT-P1-p1 Folding and crumpling roundup | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 5, 2015 at 1:42 pm
    3. 3 T1-MMT-P1-p2-e6 Tearing | Fibres of Being Trackback on April 26, 2015 at 7:42 pm
    4. 4 T1-MMT-P3 Melissa Silk: Lightfold workshop | Fibres of Being Trackback on September 19, 2015 at 11:31 pm

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