The German indigo dyer, Georg Stark, and the Textile Research Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands, organised an exhibition about an intriguing aspect of shared Dutch-German cultural heritage, namely that of resist printing and dyeing with indigo. The exhibition was set up with the assistance of the local government of Niedersachsen, Hannover, in Germany.
The old craft of indigo dyeing has been added to the UNESCO list of German cultural heritage and is being supported at various levels and manners. Georg Stark himself has been recognised as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage craftsman (for indigo). In the Netherlands, however, the situation is different. Some thirty years ago the last indigo workshop (in Staphorst) closed down. This was all the more unfortunate, since the first indigo dyer in Europe happened to be a Dutchman. In 1671, Jacob ter Gouw opened the first indigo workshop in his native town of Amersfoort.
In the exhibition, Georg Stark, from Jever in Ost-Friesland, presented his own work. At the same time, the exhibition showed the work of the last indigo dyeing workshop in the Netherlands, which was run by Kob Vloedgraven in Staphorst. This included examples of the famous 'stipwerk', well-known from the traditional costume of the region. The exhibition also showed precious, centuries-old dyed and printed textiles, made of linen and silk, and old recipees written in secret formulas. Textile students of Osnabrück University showed their new designs using ancient indigo techniques.
The exhibition discussed and visualised the origins of indigo dyeing in India and the transfer of some indigo designs via Egypt to Europe.
Whether some well-known phrases about 'Blue Monday' ('Blauwe Maandag in Dutch) or 'Out of the blue' actually derive from the old craft of indigo dyeing was discussed by Georg Stark at the opening of the exhibition on 7th November. This is said in an old German poem:
“Wie ein Magier mischt der Meister Mit Spangrün, Vitriol und Waid Auch zaubrisch Zonen, Zahl und Zeit; Und Blüten, die ein Weitgereister Vielleicht bei Tempeltänzerinnen In Surakarta einst gesehen, Erblühen „á la indienne“ In weiß auf blaugefärbtem Linnen“