Chinami and Rowland Ricketts began cultivating indigo on their Indiana farm in order to supply dyestuff for their respective crafts, turning green leaves into deep blue dye through an almost alchemical process. “The choice we make to plant, harvest, dry, winnow, compost, and create indigo-dyed textiles by hand is not one of necessity,” they say. “Rather, it is a conscious one that places value and meaning on the actions we take in the world, in our ways of making.”
While the duo focuses on creating different types of textiles—Rowland dyes both functional and artistic pieces, while Chinami weaves yardage that can be tailored into traditional Japanese obis and kimonos, among other things—they both channel the indigo into highly meaningful and beautiful artifacts. “By keeping the actual textiles as close to ‘just a piece of cloth’ as possible, the goal is to make the indigo the focus and not the thing itself,” Rowland says.
The pair first met in Japan, where they were apprentices to the same dyer; afterward, Rowland refined his method of cultivating indigo while Chinami began to apprentice for an expert weaver. After a stint at Cranbrook and many exhibitions of their work, the Rickettses are expanding the reach of their textiles and of indigo plants themselves. In 2014, after winning a Martha Stewart American Made award, they spread production to small farms around the Midwest in order to create more dye for other weavers and artisans.