Rowland Ricketts

Rowland Ricketts: Work Time

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January 29, 2016 – April 23, 2016

“The smell of an indigo vat just as it begins fermenting and springs to life is one of ripeness; a moment of rich potentiality when, as a maker, I momentarily stand between the history of the materials and processes that helped me get the indigo thus far and the promise of all the works that the vat is still yet to realize.” — Rowland Ricketts, Artist Statement

Rowland Ricketts utilizes natural dyes and centuries-old historical processes to create contemporary textiles that span art and design. Today, with petroleum-derived indigo readily and cheaply available, the choice to plant, transplant, weed, harvest, winnow, dry, and compost the indigo by hand is not one of necessity. Ricketts deliberately works in ways that favor slower, natural processes and materials over more immediate, synthetic options. He grows and processes his own indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) using Japanese methods that are centuries old. The leaves are harvested, dried, and composted by hand to make the traditional Japanese indigo dyestuff called sukumo. The sukumo is in turn fermented in wood-ash lye to create a natural indigo vat. Choosing to process indigo in this way is a conscious act of recognition that all the energy extended in the farming and processing of the indigo plants is just as much a part of the final dyestuff as the indigo molecules themselves.

As both a dye and a process, traditional Japanese indigo would seem to be a perfect fit as we look for ways to lessen the impact of current methods of dyeing on the environment, yet there are many aspects of this environmentally sustainable practice that challenge this assumption. Through an overview of a recent dyeing and installation project, Ricketts explores these challenges as well as the potential for local human-scale indigo production in the 21st century.

From 1996-1998, Ricketts trained in the ancient process of indigo farming and dyeing at Nii Indigo Farm in Tokushima, Japan. He received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2005 and is currently an Assistant Professor in Textiles at Indiana University’s Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Art. His work has been exhibited at the Textile Museum (Washington, DC), Cavin-Morris Gallery (New York), and Douglas Dawson Gallery (Chicago) and has been published in Textiles Now, FiberArts, Selvedge, Surface Design Journal, and Hand/Eye Magazine. Ricketts is a recipient of a 2012 United States Artists Fellowship. His most recent project includes a public art interface that serves to bring awareness to historical indigo dyeing centers in Japan.


John and Suzanne Bishop