My Indigo diaries 2022 – The Indigo plot (late May) news – Meet the growers … Deborah

The Indigo plot at the Botanics is going live this Saturday with a planting event If you are in the West of Scotland there is still time to join in the fun, You should book a space, it is free but we want to be able to contact you in case there is a change of plan.

We are very excited to see our little plants getting stronger and stronger and ready to fend for themselves in The Botanical Garden. This Saturday we will plant Japanese Indigo, Woad plants and Flax seeds. A very exciting time … I hope you will visit in the summer if you are around. But event if you cant be here in person I want to share the project with you. I hope it will inspire you to grow dye plants in your own surrounding and learn to use them in a sustainable manner to perhaps up-cycle some of your garments?

As well as growing plants in the grounds of The Botanical Garden I wanted to share further afield and I recruited 24 home growers who wanted to give this a go. I share some seeds with most of them and regularly we are coming together on zoom to catch up with our progress. They are gardeners, dyers, artists, or just simply colour lovers … I have asked them to introduce themselves and this month we are discovering Deborah Gray a textile lover and like me a full time self employed artist from the West of Scotland and a wool lover whose natural dying is very close to nature. I met Deborah through my online teaching and we have connected very well indeed. I love her sustainable approach and her deep connection with nature. Deborah set up a dye garden in Oban (Scotland) where she grows a number of dye plants. She grows Indigo and Woad in it.

She talks about her love for a sustainable practise and her work below, all photos are Deborah’s: (photos and words are copyright of Deborah Gray 2022)

Who are you?      Deborah Gray

What do you do ?  I’m a textile artist based in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. Much of my work reflects the connection between land(scapes) and the materials which grow there – fibres and dye-plants. I am also a tutor, teaching spinning, knitting and natural dyeing both here in Scotland and internationally.  

I am Lead Artist for the EcoCreative Cluster project at The Rockfield Centre, Oban.

What is your connection with dye plants and Indigo? I have been growing and using dye plants since the early 1980’s, including Woad and Japanese Indigo.  I am growing Woad, Weld, Madder and some other dye-plants in my own garden as well as some plants for botanical printing.

In 2021 with a small group of volunteers I established a dedicated dye garden in the grounds of The Rockfield Centre as part of the EcoCreative Cluster project, and we grew and dyed with our first crop of Woad, as well as many other dye plants. We have about 20 different dye-plants in the dye garden. The EcoCreative Cluster project this year will create artworks for The Rockfield Centre themed on the Celtic tree alphabet, using natural dyeing, botanical printing and work using natural pigments on parchment (to be exhibited in January) as well as having workshops and a second series of on-line Artist Conversations with international artists who use natural dyes and materials in their practice.

Where will it grow and how will it be used? This year I am growing Woad at home, and we are growing both Japanese Indigo and Woad for the dye garden. We are growing two types of Japanese Indigo – the long leaf variety and the round leaf variety, and I hope to have enough to compare the dye potential of the two types. The round leaf variety has been much slower to develop so far. The seedlings are still in pots on my sunniest windowsill, but they will move to the dye garden’s cold frames by the end of May and be planted out in a raised bed around the middle of June. The Woad seeds have been planted directly into a bed – they are on the shadier side of the garden this year as I move the plants around the plot each year. Last year’s Woad plants are now about 1.5 metres tall and in full flower, so we should get a good harvest of seeds.

In August, as part of an exhibition at The Rockfield Centre (19th – 29th) I will be doing daily dyeing demonstrations using plants from the dye garden and if the Japanese Indigo is ready by then I will use some. I will also have an indigo dyeing day in September. Last year and earlier this year I ran some Tatakizome (plant hammering) workshops and used Woad leaves successfully, so we may do the same with Japanese Indigo. Depending on how well the plants grow and how much we can harvest I may experiment with drying or freezing leaves for later use and making indigo pigment.

For more information about the EcoCreative Cluster project and dye garden go to Eco Creative Cluster — The Rockfield Centre and follow #ecocreativecluster and #therockfieldcentre on Instagram

Please tag  @deborah.gray7

Published by bettysbeautifullife

I am a Christie's trained artist born in France but living in Glasgow. I work with Eco Techniques like Natural dyes, Eco Printing and Indigo dyeing using recycled material. I learn, teach and share my techniques, I work with communities and travel to Asia

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