For those who love indigo blue and have started cultivating a patch of Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria), this book is a treasure. Renowned textile artist John Marshall is fluent in both indigo and Japanese and it is our great fortune as his book explains the many methods of dyeing with Japanese indigo far beyond the simple methods commonly used today. John’s humorous, clearly written and lavishly illustrated book draw from his own techniques and tools as well as translating several Japanese texts that have not been available to the English-speaking natural dyer. John covers Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) from cultivation, care and harvest. The dye instructions include simple rubbing and raw-leaf dyeing to more sophisticated methods, including using a combination of cooked and raw leaves, adjusting pH, drying indigo leaves, extracting pigment, making traditional sukumo, and various vats including chemical and fermentation reduction. He also has a section on using indigo for painting, overdyeing and surface patterning using Japanese methods.
The other thing I love about this book is that it introduces the reader to the Japanese color mindset when it comes to the shade blue. Rather than concentrating on achieving the darkest, blackest blues, John show us how to create delicate robin’s egg and aqua shades, which are achievable with fresh leaves, and clearly differentiates which dye methods will produce different blue shades on various fibers.
A great companion book to this volume is Salvation Through Soy, which covers the use of soy milk as a traditional pigment binder for Japanese textile painting.