Rowland and Chinami Ricketts
Tell us about your business.
We have been working with indigo since 1996 when we met as apprentices under the same indigo dyer in Japan. Based now in Bloomington, Indiana, we rely on the natural world around us to enrich our work with its inherent vitality. We grow our plants organically at home and use no synthetic chemicals at any stage of the farming or dyeing process. When the dye bath has reached the end of its life, it is recycled back as fertilizer to the indigo fields where it was born. We hold fast to the idea of moving forward by looking back to the historical techniques and process of Japanese indigo farming and dyeing and the high level of environmental responsibility and stewardship they represent.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.
We work between many spaces in town: our personal studios – Chinami in her weaving studio in a cottage at home where she designs and weaves narrow-width yardage; Rowland in his dye studio in a turn-of-the-century elementary school; in the fields where we grow our indigo; and in the shed where it is processed. We are working towards building a new studio at home to bring our work closer together and to build rainwater and grey water capture and recycling systems to increase the sustainability of our practice.
What inspires you?
Rowland: Historical methods of making and their often deep connection to the immediate environment. Chinami: The natural world in which we live and the beauty of simple, natural forms and colors.
What makes your business stand out?
We aren’t just a dye studio that purchases their dyes. Trained in traditional indigo farming and dyeing in Japan, we are two of a handful of people in the world who know how to process indigo through composting the dried leaves. The resulting dyestuff, born of our immediate environment, lends itself to easy fermentation for dyeing. We invest our time and energy in the farming and processing of the dyes we use with the belief that the plants’ vitality lives on in the dyed cloth.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?
Believe in what you do, do what you love, and keep at it.
What does American Made mean to you?
To date, it meant simply that: American Made. Our indigo is born of the Indiana soil, and we do every step of the dyeing process ourselves. We have also come to think of American Made as a blending of cultures, much like America itself. Using traditional Japanese techniques we work within our local environment and community to create a color that speaks across cultures to something that is profoundly human. We also see American Made as the building alliances to be part of something bigger. Hence, we are now beginning to expand our dye production, working with small, local organic farms to grow more indigo so that we provide natural indigo dyeing to similar dreamers in the domestic textile market.