True blue: Atelier Courbet and Buaisou shed light on an ancient craft

New York's Atelier Courbet's current enterprise is Aizome Tradition of Tokushima - a beautifully formed exhibition that showcases the tradition of Japanese indigo dying
(Image credit: press)

The elegant design shop and gallery, Atelier Courbet (opens in new tab), has been flying a delicate flag for handcraftsmanship and exquisite design since it opened in Manhattan's well-heeled Nolita neighbourhood in 2013. Its current enterprise, Aizome Tradition of Tokushima - a beautifully formed exhibition that showcases the tradition of Japanese indigo dying - is no different. Set up in its bijou gallery, located adjacent to its main Brewer Carriage House space, Atelier Courbet has teamed up with Buaisou (opens in new tab) - a modern day artisanal workshop - to offer visitors an in-depth view of the savoir-faire behind this age-old craft.

Based in Tokushima, on Japan's Shikoku island, Buaisou is an indigo plant farm and dying workshop run by Kakuo Kaji and Kenta Watanabe. One of five remaining indigo plant farms that continue the 700-year-old tradition of harvesting indigo leaves and composting them to make indigo dye, Buaisou transplanted an iteration of its operation inside Atelier Courbet to host a series of dying workshops on its premises. From the large vats - where the indigo dye is made by fermenting the indigo leaf compost with wood ash, water, calcium hydroxide and wheat bran - to demonstrating the techniques that yield those iconic Japanese patterns, the exhibition and workshops both provide a special opportunity to understand the inner workings of indigo dying up close.

The workshops held at Atelier Courbet may have been by invitation only, but for those hoping to try their hand at dying for themselves, Buaisou has recently opened a Brooklyn atelier armed with a host of programming (opens in new tab) and hand-dyed offerings.

Indigo Workshop

Set up in its bijou gallery next door, Atelier Courbet has teamed up with Brooklyn bluesmasters Buaisou, offering an in-depth view of this age-old craft

(Image credit: press)

Indigo Workshop

Buaisou is one of just five remaining authentic Japanese indigo plant farms. The dying process is a 700-year-old tradition

(Image credit: press)

Indigo Workshop

Pieces of wood showing the variation in tone, shade and hue the dying process can create

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Indigo Workshop

Pristine, white cloths, waiting to be dyed

(Image credit: TBC)

Indigo Workshop

The dye itself is a batter-like mixture, made from fermented indigo leaves, wood ash, water, wheat bran and calcium dioxide

(Image credit: press)

Indigo Workshop

The techniques are as varied as the iconic patterns the process produces. Here, a cloth is knotted to create a tie-dye effect

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Indigo Workshop

The cloth is then drowned in the dark blue dye

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Indigo Workshop

To ensure the cloth becomes fully saturated, a hands-on approach is required. No fingernail escapes unscathed

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Indigo Workshop

Washing and wringing

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Indigo Workshop

The finished piece: sky blue and cloud white, by way of deep midnight

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Indigo Workshop

A clamp is used to hold concertina pleats in place, ensuring the dye doesn't penetrate too deeply into the fabric

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Indigo Workshop

With such an emphasis on manual craftsmanship,  no two pieces are ever the same

(Image credit: press)

Indigo Workshop

Woven wood in myriad shades of this ancient dye

(Image credit: press)

Indigo Workshop

For those hoping to try their hand at dying for themselves, Buaisou has recently opened a Brooklyn atelier armed with a packed schedule and hand-dyed offerings

(Image credit: press)

ADDRESS

Atelier Courbet
175 Mott Street
New York 10012

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Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.