Saturday, April 14, 2012

Indigo Dying with Middle School Teens

World history, American history, geography, chemistry, social studies, music and visual art combined! For the past three years, the indigo vat has been set up in the Oakville Middle School art studio classroom for the 8th grade Art 2 students' study of the history of indigo and slavery.

Student allowing indigo to drip in pan after in dying in vat (bottom of photo)

Dying fiber in indigo is magical! Students were once again amazed as their projects emerged a deep lime green from the vat, but transformed into deep shades of blue before their eyes as the oxygen from the air they breathed attached to the oxygen starved dye.

Bundles oxidizing on the drip rack

Before dying, students had to create a design for their projects by applying a variety of Elements and Principles of Design, such as : movement, line, pattern, rhythm, shape, value, contrast, and emphasis.  

By implementing clamp, tie and stitch resist techniques, the fifty-seven students dyed their T-shirts or pillowcases over three to four class periods. 

While they waited for their turn to dye, they listened to various musical artists from Africa
 and researched the history of indigo and the slave trade. 
For more information about this research project

After dying their projects multiple times to achieve the value and intensity of blue they desired (with the understanding that dry fiber is considerably lighter in value than wet), 
they began to untie and wash their bundles.

After removing all clamps, tying and stitching, the students helped each other wash any residual dye from the fiber. 

The students were thrilled with the results!


After the projects were washed by the students, I gave them a good wash in my machine at home and brought them back the next day for the students to complete their written assessments.

While the indigo vat was "up and running," many of the thirty-seven OMS Art Club students, who do not have a regular art classes because of band or special education classes, also took advantage of the opportunity to dye their own shirts and socks during their regularly scheduled two hour meeting 
every other Wednesday after school.  
Admittedly, in a middle school culture of sports logos and Hello Kitty, it gives me great pleasure to see glimpses of indigo scurrying down the halls between classes.