A piece of white silk plunged into an indigo vat comes up green and dripping; only when kissed by the air does it yield to rich, deepening, ocean shades of blue. The first time I witnessed this mating of earth and sky, I was hooked. That was in Turkey. Then Japan. Peru. Thailand . . . the world loves indigo. It in an elixir, steeped in ritual and history. In Bangladesh, indigo is a life.
Meet the Board of Directors that bring blue to life. These women, born to the most marginalized segments of their society, are now leaders of their communities, establishing education, sanitation, and health initiatives; organizing, teaching, arbitrating disputes, and overseeing profits. And they are artisans, emboding the radical work of the hand-made sector in Bangladesh.
Radical, because the field of indigo dyeing carries a dark history of abuse: forced labor, beaten workers, starvation. After a rebellion by workers in 1860 and then the introduction of synthetic dyes . . . . indigo was over.
But . . . indigo rises like a mystery, it transforms before your eyes. Those who carry the skills in their bones have once again risen into a power of their own. Now, artisans are integrating indigo plants into their agricultural cycle because it nourishes the soil like a legume. It’s good for food! They’re fusing the Japanese textile art of shibori with their own Bengali running stitch to create a new sophisticated product with global appeal. They are caring for their own - with home repairs and health insurance and debt relief - reaching beyond the cycle of poverty, the history of abuse. And they are working together, not in a foreign factory on the edge of collapse, but in their own fields of growth.
The results are stunning. Collectible, actually.
Two years ago, I saw master quilter, Sona Rani Roy, at work. Her fingers pushed through cloth with a needle of self-determination. Precision. Artistry. With a community behind her, and a future ahead of her - I knew I wanted to be a part of that future. For two years, I’ve been working to bring this magic to you. Now it is here.
True blue, I’d submit. Rising from the earth, kissed by the heavens. A mystery that belongs to all of us.
all the best -
Susan Hull Walker