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A Process of Indigo Batik

A Process of Indigo Batik

I see deep, oceanic indigo. I see ancient markings born of mythology, folklore, the origins of life.  Again, as always, I am swept into this current of blue, the soul of it swimming in layers of history and practice.

And then I look up and see Sarah - herself head to toe in indigo, presiding over this beauty with a knowledgeable face, and I think: That's someone I want to know.

Sarah Horowitz moved to the mountainous Guizhou Province of China five years ago, working with Miao and other indigenous women in rural communities who have little schooling and scant opportunities to work.

But indigo grows there.  And women carry a language in their hands, the art of wax-resist, a kind of batik; and though the Miao have no written language, they have this language in cloth, and they have singing, and through both of these recount their stories, their generations, their lives.

Brilliantly, Sarah partners with a local NGO researching these traditions, helps women set up cooperatives, and sees them leverage their traditional, eco-friendly skills into income without leaving their cultural communities. But that isn't enough; Sarah also becomes a bridge to designers, moving product into wider markets.

The Recipe:  Grow and tend the indigo; harvest the leaves. Make a soup of precise ingredients.  Ferment for days. Meanwhile, heat wax until it flows through brass plates affixed to bamboo sticks. Paint an ancient motif with the wax, very carefully. Bathe in indigo vat continuously for up to 4 days. Sing the old songs.  Throw cloth in boiling water to remove the wax, then cold wash it. Then beat it until the sun goes down for a smoother, shiner look.  

No, still not finished.  Take it to the women silversmiths making jewelry and make of the cloth a ring, or an earring. Show Sarah and ask if the Ibu in America will like.  Price well. Ship and wait for a rampage of interested buyers.  Go home and feed your children, send them to school, give them a leg up in this world.  Smile as you kiss them goodnight.

From hand to hand, from hope to hope, from soul to soul. . .
That's how this blue blue river flows.

All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker

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