10 Day Workshop - Intensive

February 2015

Stokers Siding, The Tweed Valley, Northern NSW 

Workshop Cost  -  $1650

Fermented Indigo, Fructose Indigo, Mud-dyes, Madder, Cochineal, Weld, Logwood and Brazilwood

This is a very intensive 10-day-long workshop, run over two weeks with one weekend off, which will serve as a comprehensive introduction to dyeing with natural dyes, but is also suitable for people with dyeing experience to extend their repertoire and techniques. Its main focus is Aboubakar Fofana's speciality, the fermented West African indigo dye-vat, made using the whole indigo leaves and fermented over a week to produce a dye of unmatchable colour and fastness. But whilst participants wait for the fermented dye-vat to reach maturity, they will be shown other dyes, including powdered fructose (quick vat) indigo, mineral mud-dye, and a host of other colours from madder, cochineal, weld, logwood and brazilwood.

Participants will learn how to set up both kinds of indigo dye-vats, the fermented and the fructose vats, and how to care for them and prolong their lives.  They will then explore the very different process of mineral mud-dyes, before moving on to the traditional set of natural dyes and learning how to extract the dyes from the dyestuff and how to get the best results.  There will be comprehensive explanations of how to prepare textiles for the different types of dyes we will be using, with a bit of chemistry thrown in. Mordants and assists will be explained and demonstrated. Participants will make sample sets for the dyes used, and begin to learn about over-dyeing to create different shades and colours, and simple shibori and resist techniques. By the beginning of the second week, participants will begin to work on a project.  Aboubakar will be on hand at all times to assist and answer questions, and to help participants realise their project. Finally, coming full circle, the fermented indigo vat will be ready to use and we will complete the final stage of the course, tying everything in together and hopefully creating some beautiful and very colourful final projects.

By the end of this workshop, participants should have enough knowledge and confidence to begin working with many of the dyes and the techniques used in this workshop.  The technique of fermented indigo however is one that takes years to master, and currently, the leaves are not readily available, so this part of the workshop should be treated as an exploration of fermented indigo rather than a definitive class.  The fructose indigo vat however works on similar principles and is very easily put together at home.  You will come away with an understanding of the differing techniques between the two types of indigo vat. Participants will also have several sets of samples, and finally, a larger completed project which should showcase many of the dyes and the techniques studied in the course.

The costs of the dyes and the fabric for the sample sets is included in the workshop cost of $1650.  Aboubakar will be bringing out some organic handspun and handwoven Malian cotton, and we will have some other suitable shawl-lengths – both of these will be purchasable should you wish to use them.  Clothing and other things to bring will be addressed in an email sent out to confirmed participants.

At present, we have a venue in mind in Stokers Siding, Northern NSW (40 min north of Byron Bay and 1/2 hour sth from Gold Coast Airport) The Venue, Hosanna Farmstay, provides accommodation at very reasonable prices and has an on-site kitchen which guests can use to prepare their own food.  You will probably need a car, or to be able to car-pool.  We have decided on this location partly to keep workshop and  accommodation prices down, and partly because it is out in the beautiful countryside and not located on Byron Industrial Estate.  We will let you know when we have confirmed the dates, but if you are interested in this workshop, please indicate whether accommodation may be needed.

This workshop is going to be great fun but a very big logistical operation.  The leaves, mud and mud-mordant must all be brought from Mali, as well as Aboubakar himself.  We will request a deposit of 40% when we have confirmed the dates so that we can be sure we have the numbers.  We will then go ahead and import the dyes.  If, for some reason, the dyes cannot come in, we will need to cancel the workshop and refund the deposit.  Please be aware that we are dealing with organic material from West Africa – and whilst we had no trouble getting it in last time, we are always aware that it could be confiscated.

Lastly, the fermented indigo dye vat is dependent on many things to succeed.  We are running this workshop in The Tweed Valley, Northern NSW because the vat needs to be in continuous heat.  We did succeed in getting a vat to work last year in the cold basement of a Melbourne warehouse, wrapped in electric blankets and enclosed in a plastic tent, so we are pretty confident that we can get a vat to work in Byron's lovely warmth.  But in the end, the vat is alive, and even when working in Mali, Aboubakar occasionally has failures.  If the vat fails, please understand that it is not through lack of knowledge, application or skill, and that a failed vat demonstrates how hard this dye really is to master.

There will be a maximum of seven students in this workshop, as this smaller number will allow participants enough time to properly explore all the dyes used and also allow Aboubakar to give individual attention to each participant and help them through their project.

For all enquiries or to secure a place, please email johanna.macnaughtan@gmail.com or call 0448 100 496.

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