True blue: Atelier Courbet and Buaisou shed light on an ancient craft
The elegant design shop and gallery, Atelier Courbet, 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 - 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 and hand-dyed offerings.