Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia and Sustainable Dye Practice

A film series and discussion forum dedicated to the science and practice of natural dyes and pigments using sustainable methods.



Natural Indigo Dye Extraction and Using Fresh Dye Paste at Your Home

Saturdays, 14 & 21 August, 2021 | 9:00 – 12:00 PST / 18:00 – 21:00 France
ZOOM Webinar | Slow Fiber Studios ANNEX | 1825 8th St. Berkeley, CA


Learn a revolutionary new method of extracting indigo pigment from dried leaves of Indigofera plants. You can use this easy method in your home studio. No need for access to a field of indigo plants at their time of harvest. Michel will demonstrate the advantages of this fresh dye paste to expand your art practice. You will receive step-by-step instructions as well as recordings from the class to review and guide your practice at home. Michel will provide a manual covering INDIGO pigment, botanically, chemically, and with historical background. Additionally, he will demonstrate the extraction of  indigo pigment/dye from fresh indigo plants such as Persicaria tinctoria* (Dyer’s Knotweed) and Isatis tinctoria (Woad).

Persicaria tinctoria*, previously Polygonum tinctoria is commonly, erroneously called Japanese indigo. It was already in use in the Western Zhou period (1045–771 BC) in China and was the most important blue dye in East Asia until the arrival of Indigofera from the south. It is uncertain when the plant reached the Japanese archipelago. There are other indigo plants found growing and being used for blue dye in Japan including Strobilanthes cusia in Okinawa.

3rd Annual SFS X UCBG International Color Colloquium (Zoom Event)

Sunday, 18 July, 2021 | 10:00 – 12:00 PST| Zoom Event


Natural Indigo Vat in Your Home

Saturdays, 05 & 12 June, 2021 | 9:00 – 12:00 PST / 18:00 – 21:00 France
ZOOM Webinar | Slow Fiber Studios ANNEX | 1825 8th St. Berkeley, CA



Michel will provide a complete manual on what INDIGO is botanically, chemically with historical background. He will explain how an organic INDIGO vat works and to make it and use it safely at home. You will have step-by-step instruction as well as recordings from the class to guide your practice at home. Please know that the bigger (more dyestuff) your vat is, the easier it is to maintain. In the next series of indigo workshops, Michel will teach how to extract your own indigo dye from dried indigo leaves.

The indigo workshop structure is to include two Saturdays (3 hours each) and a week in between to carry on your experiment and observation of your own indigo vat. In the first class, Michel will cover basics and you will make your indigo vat and learn how to dye various fibers, in the second class, Michel will show how to enrich/spike your depleted vat by adding a stock solution and learn to continue using the vat for your ongoing small scale home project. He will demonstrate alternatives for antioxidants besides fructose.

Enjoy your own dye vat to color your home projects with a dip in an organic indigo dye. It would be handy to dye your samples if you are taking the upcoming shibori workshops.


Community Indigo JAM & SOCIAL
Monday 21 October 2019   | Slow Fiber Studios Annex



Slow Fiber Studios you to the third and last Indigo JAM of 2019. On Monday, October 21, we have two very potent indigo vats available for participants to gather, socialize and dye fiber pieces of their latest projects. These all-natural 30 gallon vats are robust, made of a blend of Persicaria tinctoria, Indigofera tinctoria, and Indigofera suffruticosa from Tennessee and California, USA and Oaxaca, Mexico.

Slow Fiber Studios founder Yoshiko I. Wada will provide casual instruction and demonstration at the beginning of the session and will be available to give advice on your latest indigo project. Come and meet fellow dyers over these communal, organic indigo dye vats.

You ae welcome to bring 1-2 pounds of all natural, plant based or silk fabrics or fibers pre-washed, rinsed well, and ready to dye. Let us avoid t-shirts or bulky garments to be courteous to other dyers. Sashiko artists may wish to bring their yarn or cloth to dye, and shibori artisans may wish to bring prepared shibori pieces to dye. The indigo vats will have a higher pH and may be harsh for fine wool fibers.


Regenerative Natural Colorant Manufacturing in the Southeastern U.S.
Sarah Bellos
Thursday 24 October 2019   | Slow Fiber Studios Annex


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Sarah Bellos, CEO and Founder of Stony Creek Colors, was a keynote presenter at The North American Indigo Project Colloquium last March, is back in the Bay Area. She will share with us her company’s commitment to working honestly with the natural world and in the process reshaping the future of fashion.

SCC is the first company in the U.S. to grow indigo at a scale usable by the commercial textile industry. The company is expanding to grow, source, and manufacture an array of regional, bio-based dyes that move the color wheel beyond blue. One of their newest products, black walnut paste, is a dye extracted from waste hulls sourced from hulling stations in Tennessee, where the nut is separated out for food use. The company is widely appreciated for introducing alternative crops to farmers in the Southeastern U.S. facing the decreased demand for tobacco.

Join us for an evening with Sarah followed by a potluck dinner. Socialize with the local community and discuss sustainable regional sources of natural dyes.



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Aranya 25th Anniversary
Friday – Monday 22 – 25 February 2019   | Aranya Natural, Munnar, India

Past Events



Year of Ethnobotany
Friday – Saturday 11 – 12 October 2019  | UC Botanical Garden

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Indigo & Cochineal
Yoshiko I. Wada & Alejandro de Avila
Saturday 12 October 2019  | UC Botanical Garden



Natural dyes: A series of FIVE exploratory, focused one-day workshops
Catharine Ellis
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 – 14 September 2019   | Slow Fiber Studios Annex


Catharine Ellis
Thursday 12 September 2019 | Slow Fiber Studios Annex

image by Nick Falduto
courtesy Nick Falduto

Catharine Ellis, distinguished textiles artist, educator, and natural dye specialist, taught a comprehensive series of one-day workshops examining natural dyes through five separate specifications. These included dyeing wool with and without mordants, utilizing ‘classic’ tannins such as gall nut and locally available tannin variants, comparing mordant processes, printing with natural dyes, and simultaneous direct application of assorted natural dyes and mordants onto fabric. Students focused on the importance of informed exploration of natural dyes for textile artists who desire a thorough understanding of their processes.


Community Indigo JAM and Shibori Social
DVD Launch Party for Ana Lisa Hedstrom
Saturday 15 June 2019 | Slow Fiber Studios Annex




Biennale of Natural Dyes (BoND)
Saturday 15 June 2019 | China National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China


This conference was the museum’s first Biennale of Natural Dyes, hosting presentations, workshops, and exhibitions. Natural dye specialists, scientists, historians, entrepreneurs,  artists, designers, and textile enthusiasts came from around the world to investigate the past and future of natural dyes.


The Year of Ethnobotany: North American Indigo Projects
Michel Garcia + Sarah Bellos + Rowland Ricketts + Rebecca Burgess and sukumo makers from Northern California
Sunday, 31 March 2019 | 9:00-13:00 (9-13:30) | UC Botanical Garden

2 Half-Day Workshop by Michel Garcia “Beyond Mordants”: Thursday – Friday, 28 – 29 March 2019 | 9:30-13:00UC Botanical Garden

Rowland Ricketts: artist talk and indigo dyeing: Friday, 29 March | 18:00-21:00 | San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design in conjunction with the exhibition “Material Domestication”


INDIGO from PLANTS, or PETROLEUM?: Transparency, Traceability, and Farm-to-Trade

Slow Fiber Studios and UC Botanical Garden collaborated in presenting the North American Indigo Projects with guest speakers, including world-renowned natural dye expert Michel Garcia from France; Sarah Bellos of Stony Creek Colors, Tennessee; and Rowland Ricketts, Indiana. Their presentations will be followed by a discussion panel with Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed; Kristine Vejar, Berkeley; Craig Wilkinson, Sonoma; Graham Keegan, Los Angeles; and a moderator, Yoshiko Wada, Berkeley. In light of the growing awareness of ecological responsibility—the need to  preserve the health of people and the environment, as well as the traceability of production processes—artists, designers, and industries are reviving the use of natural indigo. The colloquium discussed models of using indigo dye in artistic pursuits, community engagement, education all in the intention to learn about revolutionary changes in the industry.


Indigo Intensive Workshops: Dried Leaves, Compost (sukumo), Powder, and Paste.
Yoshiko I. Wada
Saturday, 30 March 2019 |  Slow Fiber Studios Annex


The Slow Fiber Studios Annex initiated a dynamic experience with interactive conversations and exchange of information between invited indigo specialists. This unique crossover facilitated the studio space as a platform to activate expert indigo knowledge, spark imagination and inspire the participants in a wide range of topics concerning indigo.  Discussions and demonstrations covered: sukumo (compost), dried indigo leaves, indigo powder and making indigo dye vats.


Beyond Mordants: Printing & Painting
Michel Garcia
Monday – Wednesday 1-3 April 2019  | Slow Fiber Studios Annex 


Presented in our Natural Dye Workshop IV DVD, Michel shared his newly developed printing and painting techniques on cloth.  This workshop, he taught two methods how to process insoluble colors such as indigo, annatto, and alkanet for painting.  For example, how to extract indigo from dried leaves of indigofera plant family as a dye paste. In addition, Michel covered printing with pagoda tree blossom buds, logwood, and cochineal together on wool. Participants learned to combine and layer various colors together on the the same surface and steam set colors in cloth.


2nd France Study Tour: Natural Dyes + Historical Tapestries + Paleolithic Sites
Paris → Loire Valley → Brittany
June – July 2019 (2 Groups)

Demonstrations by Michel Garcia
Led by Yoshiko I. Wada


Natural Dye Demonstrations + European Dye Traditions + Medieval Tapestries + History of Trade from East to West + Modern Organic Chemistry

Led by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, founder of Slow Fiber Studios and producer of the Natural Dye Workshop film series, the 2nd France Study Tour will explore Paris and the cultural regions of the Loire Valley and Brittany, inhabited by humans since the Lower Paleolithic Period.

Focus on some of the most precious textile works in history, including the Apocalypse Tapestry, a 600 year–old naturally dyed masterpiece spanning 140m. Gain a deeper understanding of European textile manufacturing, from medieval dyeing processes to the rise of industrial cotton mills and global trade, to Michel Garcia’s insights into modern organic chemistry. Join him at his new studio in Brittany as he continues his research and experimentation to unlock the mysteries of natural colors.

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Michel Garcia is a world-renowned botanist, chemist, naturalist, and natural dye expert. He is the founder of Couleur Garance (1998) in Lauris, France, and established Le Jardin Conservatoire de Plantes Tinctoriales (Botanical Garden of Dye Plants) in 2000 as a horticultural resource for chemists, natural dye researchers, and botanists. He has been instrumental in revitalizing the natural dye practice in France and abroad.

See the Natural Dye Workshop DVD series by Michel, produced by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada and Slow Fiber Studios. For more information visit


Tannins Intensive
1 – 2 September 2017


Commonly found in leaves, barks, roots, and fruits of trees, tannins are used to produce wine, leather, and ink. Dyers can use these naturally occurring compounds to produce colors from beige and grey to warm red to dark brown and black, in addition to widening the color palettes for other natural dyes. Take advantage of their unique characteristics to improve colorfastness, bond colors to fibers without using inorganic mineral mordants, and apply photosensitive effects and polymerizing qualities by gaining a deeper understanding of tannins and their diverse applications.


Michel Garcia
3 September 2017


Indigo Intensive
Michel Garcia

5-7 September 2017

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An enduring color throughout human history, indigo blue crosses cultures, from ancient body painting in the British Isles to the saturated robes of Tuareg men in the Sahara. Michel will share his knowledge of botany and chemistry to unlock the mysteries of this widespread dye. This workshop will cover several different reduction vat methods, including fructose, henna, and ferrous vats, as well as applications using fresh leaf indigo grown in Berkeley. In addition Michel will address ethnic indigo traditions including dyeing with multiple types of indigo, such as combining Indigofera tinctoria with Justicia spicigera for a deeper blue, and making Azul Maya (Maya Blue) pigment, a “pre-Columbian nanotechnology” manufactured by ancient Mesoamericans.


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Slow Fiber Studios has partnered with the University of California Botanical Garden (UCBG) to extend Michel’s visit with an enriched focus on botanical science. The 34-acre garden hosts over 10,000 types of plants with a mission to develop and maintain a diverse living collection, support teaching and worldwide research in plant biology, further the conservation of plant diversity, and promote public understanding and appreciation of plants and the natural environment.


The Botany and Chemistry of Natural Dyes
Michel Garcia + Dr. Vanessa Handley + Dr. Margareta Sequin

8 September 2017 | UC Botanical Garden

Michel Garcia, UCBG Director of Collections and Research Dr. Vanessa Handley, and SFSU Chemistry and Biochemistry professor emeritus Dr. Margareta Séquin dove deep into the subject of natural dyes focusing on botanical taxonomy and phytochemistry.


Fundamentals of Sustainable Natural Dyes
28-31 August 2017 | UC Botanical Garden

The workshop reviewed methods of sustainable natural dyeing including fiber preparation, plant mordants, plant selection, using less dye for greater effect, surface design techniques, and various applications of natural dyes.


UCBG Tannin Walk
31 August 2017 | UC Botanical Garden 

Commonly found in leaves, barks, roots, and fruits of trees, tannins are used to produce wine, leather, and ink and can greatly enhance a natural dyer’s practice. Participants joined Michel Garcia for a walk through the University of California Botanical Garden to learn about tannins and their many applications in situ.