Rowland Ricketts

work time

August 12 – September 18

Opening Reception : August 12 from 5 – 7pm

Artist Lecture : August 13 from 5:30 – 7:30pm

This August, the Durango Arts Center is proud to present a solo installation of new works by contemporary textile designer, Rowland Ricketts. Best known for his bold, graphic designs, Ricketts utilizes natural indigo dyes and centuries-old processes to create dynamic textiles unlike any other fiber artist of his generation. From his Bloomington, IN indigo farm, Ricketts maintains a methodical natural cultivation and dyeing practice; planting, harvesting and drying the indigo entirely by hand. The resulting pieces are not only one-of-a-kind, but entirely reflective of the time and effort of the historical Japanese artform. For his exhibit at DAC, work time, Ricketts will design a large-scale installation of new works that will layer throughout the floor and ceiling of the Barbara Conrad Gallery, transforming the exhibition space into a unique textile experience.

Artist Statement

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.

I grow and process my 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.

My decision to work this way is one that consciously favors slower, natural processes and materials over more immediate, synthetic options. Today, with petroleum-derived indigo readily and cheaply available, my choice to plant, transplant, weed, harvest, winnow, dry, and compost the indigo by hand is not one of necessity. Instead it 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.

In addition, my own experiences with indigo – first as an apprentice in Japan followed by years of working with and learning from this dye – have made me aware of a connection that leads not just from my teachers to me, but one that reaches back to my teacher’s teachers and the people they learned from, back into a past in which the processes I use were developed through the accumulated experiences of all who have ever worked with this unique dye.

I find great value in this connection indigo provides to a greater human tradition. Of equal value to me is the time and energy I invest in the farming, processing, and fermenting of this dye. As a dyer I strive to transfigure all the energy of human endeavor expended on this dye so that its vitality lends its life to and lives on in the dyed cloth.

Learn More about Rowland Ricketts

Rowland Ricketts: The Most Meaningful Shade of Blue

By David Wood

This week on Artworks, artist Rowland Ricketts talks about his work with natural indigo, which he grows and processes according to traditional Japanese methods. Ricketts’ i am ai—we are ai project is one of many reasons he was the first Indiana resident to be awarded a $50,000 grant as a United States Artists Fellow.  Yael Ksander will speak with Ricketts and IU Telecommunications senior lecturer Norbert Herber.  LISTEN HERE.

The Indigo Project

After traveling in Southeast Asia a number of years ago, Fibershed founder Rebecca Burgess was inspired to grow local forms of natural blue. She began at the garden scale, and after several years of small scale backyard projects, she was motivated to increase regional access to indigo year round. Through researching the work of Indiana University professor Rowland Ricketts, it became clear that to make large-scale vats, the size of the crop would need to expand.  READ MORE.

Rowland Ricketts

2012 USA Friends Fellow – $50,000 Award

  • Crafts
  • Traditional Arts

Rowland Ricketts, an Assistant Professor of Textiles at Indiana University, runs the IndiGrowing Blue project at the school with participants who grow and harvest Japanese indigo as a way to gain “unique insight into how we live, create, and consume as contemporary Americans.”  READ MORE.

Ricketts Indigo2014 Crafts Winner

We have been working with indigo since 1996 when we met as apprentices under the same indigo dyer in Japan. Based now in Bloomington, Indiana, we rely on the natural world around us to enrich our work with its inherent vitality.  READ MORE.

Featured Workshops


Born in Yokohama, Japan, Akemi Nakano Cohn studied traditional Japanese dyeing techniques for ten years under master artist, Haru Izumi.  She emigrated to the United States in 1986 and received an MFA in fiber art at Cranbrook Academy of Art.  Akemi has pursued an extensive series of international exhibitions and commissions, and has been an Artist-in-Residence at Anderson Ranch Art Center and the Ragdale Foundation.


Shibori with Indigo Dyeing

with Akemi Nakano Cohn
Fort Lewis College, Room 170 in the Art Department
Sunday, August 21
$175 DAC Members / $200 Non-Members


Although Indigo dyeing has been applied to clothes and interior decorations for over 700 years in Japan, indigo blues appear contemporary in our modern lifestyle.  In this unique workshop, students will explore various Shibori resist and indigo dyeing techniques.

Katazome #3_Akemi

Beyond the Kimono: Katazome

with Akemi Nakano Cohn
DAC Education Studio

August 22 & 23
$175 DAC Members / $200 Non-Members

This workshop is an introduction of “KATAZOME” basics (an excellent introduction to the textile resist-dye process). Students will develop their own designs for stencils by observing objects in nature, such as leaves, flowers, and branches to get a sense of the Japanese aesthetic from the surroundings of Durango area.