Ikagai - Purpose

Indigo love.jpg

It all started when…

Little did I know back in 2011 that a chance decision to try out Shibori and indigo dyeing at West Dean College would end up changing my life. 

I’d been a keen hobbyist jeweller up to that point, but something about the indigo and Japanese craft really appealed. As soon as I dyed my first piece in the indigo and watched the alchemy of the colour change as my wet fabric transformed itself from acid yellow to forest green to blue, I was hooked. It was one of those lightbulb moments. 

The Japanese would say I’d found my Ikigai or purpose, the thing that gives my life meaning and gets me happily leaping out of bed each morning! But, it didn’t manifest itself immediately as I was still working in eCommerce at the time, driving online sales for the likes of Harvey Nichols and Anthropologie. 

In 2014 something magical happened, I got to tick off a bucket list item by going to Japan for 3 weeks. This was also slightly random as it came about via a Pinterest post. I’d been collecting Shibori images for a while and one day came across a really beautiful piece of mokume (wood grain) indigo dyed cotton. Unusually for me,  I decided to click onto the related blog rather than just saving the image. I was so glad I did as I found Bryan Whitehead’s Japanese Textiles blogspot. Seeing he ran textiles courses in his mountain home outside Tokyo I immediately knew I had to go. 

During this trip of a lifetime, I visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Hakone and Kawaguchiko; checking out Japanese life and culture, staying in a Ryokan (Japanese Inn) in the mountains and visiting temples and Zen gardens before going to Bryan’s amazing class.

I got to learn Shibori, Katazome stencilling, indigo dyeing and kumihimo braiding with a little Ikebana flower arranging thrown in. We were also treated to visits to Onsen (Japanese bath houses) and introduced to Japanese textiles history through Bryan’s encyclopaedic knowledge and trips to museums and galleries in Tokyo. One of the best moments was rolling up my trouser legs and wading into the local stream to rinse out hanks of wool we’d dyed in Bryan’s fermented Japanese indigo.

On my return the Universe intervened by making me redundant a year later, offering me the chance of a second career as a Textiles Designer.  

I haven’t looked back since. 

I have found my Ikagai.