5.29.12 Mood Indigo: Britt Browne's True Blue

Pots 790 xxx
photo courtesy of jennifer parry dodge
Britt Browne has a mad case of the blues: she’s in love with indigo. Her affair with this magical plant has her dreaming of a utopian art farm and she’s on her way to making it a reality. She has studied printmaking in Vermont, fashion in Paris and typography in NYC, and worked as an art director at places like W magazine, Abercrombie & Fitch and Ann Taylor. As an artist, she works primarily in prints, though she made her first short film, El Niño Encantado, last year. Britt lives in LA and has many interesting collaborations brewing, including design work for a new restaurant venture affiliated with the wonderful Echo Park green grocer Cookbook, where she has also held crafting workshops. And now she has founded Growing Indigo, an art and agriculture concept project currently the subject of an exhibit, Growing Indigo: A Hydroponic Installation and Superfine Prints, at the Standard Hotel in Los Angeles, through June 9th. 
Along with hydroponically-grown indigo plants (nurtured by magenta LED lights), the exhibit features a stunning collection of Britt’s vibrant indigo-ink prints that are also for sale at Stampa, our favorite online gallery.
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britt's baleen whale (photo courtesy of stampa)
Seagrass 790 xxx
sea grass (photo courtesy of stampa)
With indigo, Britt feels she is riding “a new wave color and planet shift in our collective conscience from green to blue,” and I happen to feel very in tune with that notion. We're not alone either. Remodelista recently enthused about all things indigo and held a contest for the best indigo-themed Pinterest board. Although Britt’s blog could probably have won hands-down, take a look at some of the beautiful images on the winning board. It will really put you in a mood indigo.
Dyeing 790 xxx
a blues tradition
The indigo Britt grows is Persicaria tinctoria, a lush and resilient plant in the buckwheat family. It's an annual that flowers into a purple stalk and goes to seed, which is harvested to be replanted the following year. It’s easy to grow and releases nitrogen that supports edible crops like corn and wheat. The dye comes from the leaves. Despite being an amazing natural dye with a uniquely deep and enduring color (you'll recognize it from your denim, of course), indigo was replaced by synthetics for industrial use over the past couple of centuries. Britt saw a real opportunity to re-introduce the natural dye to a growing audience of people who appreciate a more natural and artisanal approach.
Laundry line 790 xxx
to dye for  (photo courtesy of jennifer parry dodge)
These photos are from one of the dyeing workshops Britt holds in Los Angeles. Aren't you inspired to try some home dyeing? Here's how to do it from scratch. Here's an indigo resource. If you don't want to grow or find your own indigo, just buy a kit like this or this.
Sandals 790 xxx
it's a color that enhances whatever it touches  (photo courtesy of jennifer parry dodge)
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rock on   (photo courtesy of jennifer parry dodge)
Britt is inspired by Black Mountain College, a school founded in the early 30s in North Carolina based on, as she explains it, "the idea of bringing together modern art and the tradition of craft to meet the needs of society in a functional way." Luminaries from Buckminster Fuller and Walter Gropius to Willem de Kooning and John Cage taught there before it closed in 1957. It is in the spirit of this magical place that Britt has conceived her utopian art farm, sustained by an indigo industry that feeds her love of art and craft. This summer, Britt will be tending 600 indigo plants on the California coast where it thrives in the temperate climate. I look forward to watching her grow.
 
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12 Comments

I love indigo dye, thanks for sharing this artist who I haven't heard about. Ah, California.... For more indigo enthusiasm, the book titled "Indigo" by Jenny Balfour-Paul is an invaluable reference. I've done some dye work with indigo on hemp textiles, but I'm really curious to try it on felted wool. I think it will glow. Now I feel even more inspired to grow my own too. If you'd like to take a look at my felted wool and idigo work, you can check it out here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kristinafoley
Kristina on May 29, 2012 at 7:33 am — Reply
Kristina, what serendipity! Your work is gorgeous, and the photos are, too. I am also obsessed with felt. Do you sell what you make?
laura on May 29, 2012 at 7:47 am — Reply
I am so so taken by this incredibly beautiful indigo dye, what it it represents and sharing Britt Browne...Words fail. Thank you so much. This is so enriching!
Linda Stoddard on May 29, 2012 at 9:16 am — Reply
Glad you appreciate how special this is, Linda!
laura on May 29, 2012 at 9:26 am — Reply
felt related: http://www.hutup.de/ the all white clothing killed me.. i saw at a trade show in europe.
g on May 29, 2012 at 10:52 am — Reply
So gorgeous!! I love the grey suit, very Joseph Beuys. Did you buy any of it for your store?
laura on May 29, 2012 at 11:07 am — Reply
Indigo. O indigo.
Christine on May 29, 2012 at 5:07 pm — Reply
what a gorgeous post all around, thank you so much laura, inspired and inspiring xo
stephanie on May 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm — Reply
wow! I want to grow some right now!
alwayshungry on May 30, 2012 at 12:43 am — Reply
Do it!
laura on May 30, 2012 at 4:01 am — Reply
Thank you Laura, I'm thrilled you like my work, thank you for taking the time to look! Felt is truly incredible and can be taken in so many directions, it has been my main medium for nearly 7 years and I'm yet to grow tired of it. Yes, I do sell it. I work on comission and make one of a kind pieces as well as selling my work directly to shops in Italy. I am in the process of creating pieces for this winter which I should have up on etsy by this autumn as the Italian climate is a tad too warm for felt so I'd like to reach potential clients in Europe, UK, USA.... I'll keep you posted.
Kristina on May 30, 2012 at 7:15 am — Reply
Definitely let me know when your Etsy shop is stocked!!
laura on May 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm — Reply