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Indigo Vat Donation


The indigo vat donation of $100 will purchase 1/4 of a the cost of purchasing and installing a traditional clay vat in an indigo dyer’s studio in rural India.


Natural indigo is the famous blue dye used throughout India. The Maiwa Foundation is building infrastructure to encourage the use of natural indigo (derived from plants) rather than synthetic indigo (synthesized from petrochemicals). We are also encouraging the use of a natural fermentation process in dyeing whenever possible.

Traditional dyeing with natural indigo in is accomplished through a fermentation vat. This process is difficult (if not impossible) to do in a shallow plastic pan or a metal pot. As with other fermentation processes (wine, beer, bread) the enzymes which drive the process are are sensitive to temperature changes and environmental conditions.

Traditionally, clay vessels are used. These may be anywhere from 3 to 10 feet deep. The deeper vessels require more dye to get started, but they can run longer without removing the sediment (which gradually builds up on the bottom of the vat). A deeper vat is also needed to dye lengths of cloth. The vats are buried in packed earth to stabilize the temperature. Sometimes they are packed on the outside with goat dung. The dung breaks down (like compost) and acts like a slow-release heater to keep the vat active during the winter.

The Maiwa Foundations identifies artisans who are enthusiastic to return to traditional methods. Maiwa will purchase and oversee the installation of traditional vats. In addition the Maiwa Foundation provides training in traditional methods as well as trouble shooting and sourcing natural indigo. 

Your donation will assist in the purchase of the pot itself, transport, preparation and installation.  The Maiwa Foundation hopes to remove barriers to authentic artisan work.

The backstory to this project.

In 2016 while assisting in the organization of the Indigo Sutra conference held in Kolkata India, Maiwa sought to address the loss of skill of an increasing number of artisan dyers who were relying on synthetic indigo prepared using a fast-reduction chemical vat. To address this, Maiwa conducted workshops demonstrating various organic vats to emphasize how easily they could be put into production.

After the conference, Maiwa traveled within Bengal visiting artisans. We followed up the initial workshop with additional training and consultation. During those visits we identified factors that might be holding artisans back. The addition of traditional indigo dye vats was judged to be a valuable addition the infrastructure necessary to maintain traditional skills.

The Maiwa Foundation is a registered charity in Canada. The foundation issues tax receipts for donations over $25.


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