Last night I trekked out to Walthamstow at the other end of the Victoria line, where the William Morris Gallery has been hosting Lucille Junkere as artist in residence for the past few months. I’d been meaning to visit for a while, so when I noticed that she was doing some indigo dyeing demonstrations at an after-hours event, the opportunity was too good to miss.
Lucille explained that during her residency she has been following William Morris’s recipe for a cold-water indigo vat, using Indigofera tinctoria, lime and iron (ferrous sulphate). I’d heard of a zinc and lime vat before, but not iron. Apparently it’s not so good for protein fibres, unlike a fructose vat (which needs heat). The vat works better in warmer weather – certainly it had a good flower on it last night.
Rather than focus on one large piece of work, she has experimented with different fabrics, yarns and techniques, including bamboo, nettle and cotton, as well as printing on paper.
Lucille learnt about William Morris and his use of indigo at school, but it wasn’t until she went to Africa that she was really inspired by the dye. Resist dyeing with indigo over there is known as adire, and in northern Nigeria the dyers tend to be men, whereas in the south they are women.
She had some samples of indigo-dyed fabric on display, including some narrow strips from the early 20th century and a lovely Hausa geometric design from the 1950s.
Lucille also uses reduced indigo for printing, mixed with binder.
Her sample book produced during the residency is in a rather dark corner of the Discovery Lounge in the museum (hence no photos!) but she also had some resist dyed samples in the demonstration room.
Her residency ends on 14 June, so sorry for the late notice, but you can read her account of the work she’s done on her blog Under the Breadfruit Tree.