We had the wonderful opportunity to attend a Haneul Mulbit Indigo Workshop in Bukchon in a Hanok, a traditional Korean style home. While I have done much fabric dying using a variety of processes, from dyeing in baggies, to dyeing in large vats, and dye-painting, I have never thought to learn indigo dyeing. When I dye I’m creating the colors for a specific composition, which has never included indigo blue. But I found the techniques involved in this workshop fascinating. We spent a good half-day beginning with mixing the rice paste for the resist, rather than using a packaged resist, learning the process from beginning to end.
Here is our very affable instructor. I wish I had written down his name. To his right, you can see the entrance into the home. In front of him is a step-down stone courtyard containing workshop tables, an indigo vat and rinsing tub. Having a lowered dye space is quite clever. Midway through the workshop, he sloshed a tub of water over the floor surface to wash away the dripped dye.
Here he is again with several pieces of indigo art displayed. The work we created is the framed piece resting on shoes.
The first thing he did was weigh the rice flour for the resist.
Next he poured the flour into a mixing bowl.
He’s adding water to the rice flour which he then beat into a smooth paste via an electric mixer.
Next we learned how to make rice flour doughnuts. We worked hard to make them the correct thickness and size.
The doughnuts are cooked in a large vat of boiling water. It reminded me of bagel-making where the best bagels are boiled before they are baked. We boiled only so many at a time so as not to reduce the temperature too low by adding all of them at once.
He removed the doughnuts with a strainer.
Here’s the funny part. He put the cooked doughnuts back into the electric mixer and beat them again. Did he describe the process ahead of time? No. We all laughed at ourselves and at how careful we had been to make the doughnuts just so.
Tables were set up for the dyeing process.
Boards and linen were set up for each of us.
Our instructor showed us how to moisten the boards with water so that the linen stuck to the wood, then how to smooth the fabric out, making it wrinkle-free.
The rice paste resist is spooned into a funnel similar to a pastry tube.
He showed us how to squeeze the resist out of the tube to create the mountains. I learned you have to squeeze hard enough. If you don’t, you end up with a skimpy line of resist and have to go back and add some more which is challenging, because the resist paste is sticky and doesn’t behave as well as you would like.
Next you carefully spread the resist with your finger away from the line of the mountains, which is the area you will dye.
Next we used a squeegee tool to add a larger amount of resist to the area of sky above the mountain top–this is the area we didn’t want to dye, at least not yet.
Paste is spread below the mountains in the area representing water to prevent it from dyeing.
Here is the large indigo dye vat in the courtyard.
He has dipped the ladle into the dye vat and poured it into the tub for our use.
After the design is created with the resist, the fabric is pinned to a wood strip, creating a handle to hold onto during the dipping. The piece below has been dyed Notice how the mountains are a deep indigo blue while the paste resist is greenish. We swished the dyed fabric into the orange tub of clear, very hot water to rinse the paste out, which takes some hard swishing and a fair amount of time.
To finish the artwork, we applied resist using a stencil to create the moon and reflection. Then we did a graduated dip dye process, for the sky and water. You can see how the the indigo is lightest closest to the mountains with the color becoming deeper at the top and bottom where the fabric has been held in the dye pot the longest.
Here our instructor is removing the wood strip prior to squeezing the water out.
Here is a striking artwork achieved through the indigo process.
Finally, a Merry Christmas to all. It’s been a quiet holiday for us. We had snow and ice yesterday which meant we couldn’t go to my stepmother’s house for Christmas Eve. To top it off, Mike came down with something that is making him ache all over. So–we had to cancel our Christmas dinner here today. We are looking forward to clear roads and good health for Saturday when we will celebrate Christmas with my niece and her partner, my nephew and niece-in-law and their two little boys. Yay!
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