Ricketts Indigo

Japanese Tradition in Indiana

Today, denim is one of the most common colors and readily attainable materials, but the blue hue seen on most pairs of jeans is synthetic. In the ancient period, the color of blue could only be achieved by extracting it from the indigo plant. Since the process of creating the indigo dye is a long one, (a batch takes over 300 days to complete) the traditional process has become more of a dying art form. Rowland and Chinami Ricketts are part of a small percentage that carry on this Japanese tradition in their hometown of Bloomington, Indiana. We were recently asked by Rodale’s Organic Life Magazine to photograph the couple and their process for a feature in the September/October 2016 issue.

Before we began photographing, the Ricketts invited us inside for tea. Our morning began getting to know one another and connecting over Japan–sharing stories about the beautiful culture and country that we were lucky enough to experience firsthand the previous year. During our chat Rowland taught us about their cyclical process–going from plant to compost to dye to finished textiles to left over dye being poured back onto the field as fertilizer for the next batch of crops. It was absolutely fascinating. Their commitment to sustainability and doing things the right way even when it’s more difficult resonated with us. This kind of immersion is what we love to do and inspires us to create work that people connect to.