Monday, March 21, 2011

Ancient Art of Bleu

I would say 'you have to try it to know it'.  Woad is one of those things.  It's not something I would have thought could move an entire group of women to unload their luggage of white blouses, jeans, skirts, and even undies all in attempt to dye them blue.  Mind you, not just dye them blue.  With each item dunked in, you never quite know what will come out of it.

Turns out, dyeing with woad is not really about dyeing at all.  You don't have to be a textile fiend, you don't have to love dyeing, and it's not about tie-dye flashbacks.  It's about the magic that happens when you get a group of women together in a wide open field or forest, put a big bucket of churning liquid in the middle and not only learn about the ancient art of bleu, you witness it first hand.  You watch how each item you delicately lower into "the beast" turns an acid green, an insane yellow and then when you pull it back out into the air, it settles into it's "eponymous French Blue – a rich, soft shade with a touch of grey". 

Woad is not just any blue:  It's not denim, it's not grover blue, it's not a Rit blue.  It's not a chemical, it's not something you can buy in your local Duane Reed or Walgreens.  It once was a special combination of a seemingly common weed and men's urine that turned this into one of the most popular dyes in the world, and then it found it's medicinal and healing properties, and now it is an experience that can be had by the lucky few.

Last year, on our annual group trip to France, my sister asked our teacher, Denise if she would come to the states and lead a woad workshop in LA.  Denise, the master woad dyer, agreed!  In two weeks, we'll be in historical Elysian Park putting our whites into the woad zone.

I suppose I could keep on writing about it, but what's left to tell, the rest of the group adventure, cannot be put into words.  One has to experience it.  And this year, you don't have to go all the way to France to have a most trans-formative happening, you can sign up for the workshop right here and now.  Or, sign up via The Art Of Craft, where all workshops at French General are posted, including the Concertina Workshop I teach on the following Monday.  It's gonna be a big weekend!


Kick said...

That was a great write up on the fun we have dying! Mom

Rose Brier Studio said...

and how perfect to dye in Elysian Park!

Marion Williams-Bennett said...

Woad! This defines blue!

I remember reading your posts from this trip with such happiness and a shade of envy.

I loved the woad adventure, the colors and the way the women joined together in the woad work. I think you didn't wear gloves and your hands were stained the most beautiful blue??

What a great adventure, and how amazing that she is coming to you!