ISEND: Report from France

by - Thursday, April 28, 2011

Conference organizers Dominique Cardon (left) and Anne de la Sayette (right) at the podium.
We are now three days into the ISEND Natural Dye Conference. It has been an intense and rewarding experience. Here are some brief highlights – we can’t possibly hope to cover it all, so if you have any other news from the conference, or if you are covering it in a blog of your own, hit us in the comments section and we’ll add your link. Perhaps the best way to get a sense of what is going on at the conference is to check out the ISEND videos page - almost as good as being here.

Kazuki Yamazaki drapes the podium in scarves dyed with safflower.

The first lecture of the conference was by Kazuki Yamazaki who gave a lecture on traditional safflower reds in Japan. The interesting observation from this presentation was that the safflower shades of red were very popular and were chosen over more lightfast shades from other sources.

The afternoon session opened with an explanation of the Ajrakh process given by Ismail Khatri. No matter how many new things we learn about natural dyes, traditional Ajrakh production still seems to us to be one of the most amazing, complicated and beautiful techniques.

On the second day Mary Lance presented her long-awaited documentary on Indigo: BLUE ALCHEMY: STORIES OF INDIGO. It treats the subject in magnificent depth with extensive footage from Japan and around the world. There are interviews with many of the central figures active in the revival of natural indigo use. We will be carrying them in the Maiwa Store at 29.95 cdn. Keep your eye out for this documentary. For more on New Deal Films visit

The days have been busy ones at the Maiwa booth and we’ve had a great time meeting old friends and a new enthusiastic crowd who are just getting started with natural dyes. We are please to see that our cut of clothing is also a hit with the local French audience. Our goal? Sell everything. Take nothing back.

There are many amazing booths. Always a good visit is the booth run by Amrita and Konika Mukerji who are showing the work of Ajit Kumar Das. Mr. Das paints with a variety of natural dyes on cloth that he first prepares with an alum mordants and myrobalan. Find out more by visiting

On day three several excursions were held. One fascinating one was to the La Rochelle Natural History Museum, where the curators have added a special exhibition for the conference. In almost every section of the museum items were added. These were either plants, animals, or cultural artifacts, and they were accompanied by detailed explanations.

Among the exhibited items is this remarkable find, "Zarafa" - the first giraffe to visit Europe. She was presented to Charles X in October 1826. Not only did she travel from Africa to France, she walked 900 kilometres from Marseilles to Paris. The full story can be found in the Wikipedia entry here.

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