The Textile Dye Garden is an ongoing project located in Cannoneer Courtyard on Pratt Institute's in Brooklyn, NY campus.  We serve as a resource for sustainability education and a hub for collaboration and experimentation within the Pratt and surrounding communities. more...

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Indigo Immersion: Reflections on the Tatter Workshop with Aboubakar Fofana

Assisting with Tatter Indigo Workshop led by Aboubakar Fofana was an enriching experience for the Dye Garden Crew. From the laborious setup to the intricate processes of dyeing, the Shades of Indigo workshop offered a blend of technical skills and profound cultural insights. Here’s a closer look at their experiences and reflections. 

Sarina Greene shared her initial expectations, “I thought it was going to be a workshop where I would watch them work while I facilitate and help clean, prepare fabrics, etc. I wanted to be a part of it because I realized I didn’t have much knowledge on Indigo beforehand.”  Ultimately however, the students were able to fully participate in the workshop which deeply increased their appreciation for the process.

Assisting the Tatter staff, the students played a crucial part in the workshop’s success. Beata Belogolovsky described her tasks, “Our role was mainly to lend a hand in the background of the workshop, such as prepping equipment, boiling water for the vats, setting up, and cleaning up the space.” Additionally Sarina, the Garden’s social media coordinator, worked with the Tatter staff to document the workshops.

When asked about their impression of Aboubakar Fofana’s teaching, the students had much to say. Beata noted the sense of play in his teaching and how he demonstrated techniques, then encouraged participants to find their own knowledge through individual experience. “Aboubakar wanted us to feel in our body what we thought was right, and whether or not I understood what he meant, I think there is some truth to feeling out what works for each of us.” She also commented that even after over a decade of experience, he too is still learning; Indigo is a practice. 

Sarina appreciated the teaching about Indigo’s cultural and spiritual significance. ‘When demonstrating how to achieve different shades, he explained that a proper green with healthy oxidation means the gods have accepted the vat, and we should thank them for helping us create beautiful art. This experience was self-regulating and attuned to our emotions and bodies. 

I was grateful to learn about Indigo's connection to slavery and its historical significance. It was used as currency and trade, and many enslaved people were forced to grow and process it as a cash crop. The demand for Indigo led to the increased importation of African slaves by the British. People often overlook this history and the suffering of those who produced Indigo for rich plantation owners. I appreciated Aboubakar for ensuring his participants remembered this history.’

The workshop's environment fostered a unique blend of technical learning and cultural appreciation. Sarina observed, “The learning environment was amazing. Everyone was friendly and helped with the preparations. They were all fascinated by Aboubakar’s indigo practices.” Beata appreciated the historical context provided, “I was grateful to learn about the connection Indigo had during slavery and in history.”

The students acquired new skills and refined existing ones. Griselda Pena Candelario, who has learned about natural dyes in her Textile Minor course at Pratt, thought the learning environment was friendly, collaborative and inspiring. She saw how her previous indigo vat techniques could be improved. This opportunity showed her how much time and patience are needed to make a good vat, especially at the scale used in this workshop.

The students found the meticulousness of Aboubakar's process enlightening; from the preparation of the fabric, to its handling during the dipping process, to the precautions used to avoid introducing unwanted bacteria, with the end goal of producing an even dip.

Several demonstrations stood out to the students. Beata recalled, “At the start of the workshop, Aboubakar performed a blessing on the vat. He explained that he was speaking to the god of wind and the god of water because those are the two elements that are being used to create the oxidation process.”

The workshop had a profound impact on the students' perspectives on dyeing. Beata shared “specifically, when it comes to Indigo dyeing, this workshop as well as Aboubakar’s lecture with Dr. Uzma Rizvi taught me so much about what Indigo means to people in Mali, as well as how the history of indigo being used during the slave trade has shifted that meaning. The power of the color and the stance it holds through all these eras gives breath into the pieces being made, and that I think has shifted my perspective of the practice and what it means to be working with indigo dye. To elaborate, we learned how babies are swaddled in indigo because it is a symbol of protection. We also learned of the pain of this color, because of the enslaved Africans that had to harvest the plant and whose minds were used to replicate these methods for Europeans. With this insight, I understand more than just the process of indigo dyeing, but what it took for the process to reach us today.”

The workshop has inspired the students to pursue their own projects and expand their networks. Sarina expressed, “It inspired me to want to work on my own projects… I would love to use one of the vats and just make something from it without really knowing what.” Griselda emphasized the connections she made with people from different backgrounds, all passionate about Indigo.

Summarizing her experience, Beata said, “Overall I feel that I’ve gained a greater understanding of where indigo comes from and the space it held in African culture and still continues to hold after the meaning of it has been reshaped over and over again.” 

Celebrating Our Community: Open House 2024 with Field Meridians Nature School

The Pratt Dye Garden, nestled within the vibrant community of Clinton Hill, recently welcomed visitors to its 2024 Open House, marking the beginning of the fourth growing season. The event, rich in collaboration and education, showcased the intersection of art, sustainability, and community engagement. read more

The Pratt Dye Garden is led by School of Design professors Gina Gregorio and Isa Rodrigues and maintained by dedicated Dye Garden Crew students.

Rooted in Pratt Institute, the Textile Dye Garden stands as a hub of education and collaboration. It serves not only as a resource for the Pratt community but as a beacon inviting broader participation from the surrounding neighborhoods. With a focus on experimentation and innovation, the garden embodies Pratt's commitment to responsible practices.  read the article....

Experimental Papermaking 

Dye Garden Crew member Natalie Helsel embarked on an exploratory process of making paper from materials found in Cannoneer Courtyard. 

The project transitioned into the first of hopefully many collaborations with our neighbors in the Writing Department.

read more about Natalie's project here...

Weaving Threads: Natural Dyes at the Intersection of Art & Science

Over the course of the fall semester, student scholar and dye garden member Ana Codorean collaborated with Pratt faculty to create a unit that on natural dyes that intertwined art, weaving, botany, ecology, chemistry, and technology. The project was funded through the Pratt STEAMplant Initiative. Learn more about the project here.

Indigo Harvesting and Processing

In October 2022, our team harvested and processed our Japanese Indigo into pigment. Learn about the intensive process here.

LES Girls Club Bundle Dye Event

Over the summer, the Textile Dye Garden hosted the Lower East Side Girls Club  (partnership with MoMA PS1) for a bundle dyeing event. Learn more here.

Clay-Resist Indigo Worskhop

We used our "Pratt Vat" (our hand-made indigo henna vat) to host a clay-resist workshop. Participants painted on fabric with clay and dipped in our vat. Learn more here.

Paper-Making Worskhop

One of our 2021 summer events was a paper-making workshop. We used recycled paper scraps and fresh flowers from our garden. Learn about the process here.

Lake Pigment Worskhop

As part of Pratt's Earth Action Week, the Textile Dye Garden held a paint-making event hosted by Professor Cindie Kehlet. Our team created Lake Pigments using our 2021 dried yield, and Kehlet demonstrated how to use these pigments to make paint using various binder.

Learn more about the process here.

Swatch Book Vol. 1 Now Residing in the Material Lab at Pratt

One edition of our Swatch Book Vol.1 can now be found at the Pratt Material Lab. This provides all students at Pratt with access to the swatches and information, with the hopes of expanding the use of natural dyes outside of the fashion department. Textile Dye Garden team member Ana Codorean (MA Art and Design Education '22) sat down with Sarah Burry (MSLIS/MA History of Art and Design ’23) to discuss the book.

Image courtesy of the Material Lab

The Case for Natural Dyes

The Textile Dye Garden was featured in an article in Atmos Magazine. The article highlights several artists and organizations working to promote the sustainable use of natural dyes in the textile industry.

Read the full article here

Swatch Book Vol. 1

At the end of our Fall 2021 season, we completed our first edition of our annual Swatch books. These books serve as an education research and archive of our annual harvest. A digital version of the swatches can be found here.

 A Campus Garden Flourishes with Flowers for Natural Dyes

Read the full article on Pratt's website here.

Dyeing with Stored Yield Workshop

Expert natural dyer Cara Marie Piazza led a virtual event in collaboration with the Textile Garden, were she demonstrated several techniques using our garden's 2021 harvest stored yield. Watch the full video here.

 Indigo Dye Workshop

On November 5th, 2021, we had an Indigo Dye Workshop at the garden. We worked with the indigo vat in two ways: dipping clay-resist screen printed bandanas, and itajime (Japanese resist dye folding techniques).

Learn more about the process and see our results here.

We took advantage of a warm October day to do some fresh leaf indigo dyeing in the garden.

Although the indigo was a bit past its prime this late in the season, we still were able to achieve some incredible results, particularly on the raw silk.

Pictured above is a sample of a bundle dyed fabric (using fresh flowers like marigold) that we overdyed with fresh leaf indigo.

Low Water Dye Workshop

Our first workshop at the garden was on October 8, 2021. Participants used low-water bundle dye techniques to dye deadstock cotton and wool.

Learn more about the process here.

Professor Gregorio's Material Manipulation class (Pratt Fashion Textile Minor) harvested a portion of the Japanese indigo from the garden beds and immediately set to work dyeing fabrics in the studio using a range of techniques. 

Black Walnuts foraged from Prospect Parks were processed into rich brown dyes for a range of yarns.

See images from the studio here

Learn more about Fresh Leaf Indigo Dyeing her

The Textile Dye Garden is only the second garden to exist at Pratt Institute. The first garden at Pratt was created in the early 1900s and served as an education tool for the teacher training program.

View more photos of the garden here.