What is Woad?
Woad is an ancient blue dye, made from a plant that once grew wild throughout Europe. It’s one of the oldest blues dyes in existence, used as far back as the Stone Age. For centuries woad was cultivated and worked by specialists, especially in the southwest of France, centered in the Toulouse/Albi/Carcassonne region. We first discovered this remarkable color when researching our Provence trip and connected with world-renowned French woad expert Denise Siméon-Lambert.
Denise explained how woad fell out of use once easier-to-use indigo exports from India became available starting in the 17th century. Eventually the plant stopped being cultivated at all, so when she began researching woad in 1994, she had to go to the French national archives in order to understand the traditional process of creating the dye from the woad plant. Then she needed to find seeds in the country’s agricultural research center in order to once again get a crop started.
Through patient testing, Denise developed a modern version of the traditional woad vat dyeing and this luminous, ancient blue has since caught the eye of fashion houses such as Dior and Chanel, designers in Japan, museum conservators, and others who admire the blue as being distinctly different from indigo.
“It’s a capricious color—the mineral content of the water, the make-up of the mother vat and many other variables contribute to the final result,” she explains. “But it always a blue unlike any other—permanent and magical.”
What’s a Woad Trip?
We’re thrilled to bring Denise to the U.S. and showcase this ancient French dye process with our Decor Tours Woad Trip this Fall. There is history and heritage to this color that makes the process even more remarkable. Denise’s day-long woad workshops have been a feature of every Provence tour. Every time we’ve worked with Denise has been a fantastic experience for our Decor Tour groups. People end up running back to their rooms looking for more things to dye and it is always one of the highlights of our Provence trip. We wanted to give people who can’t make it to Provence with us a chance to see for themselves the alchemy that happens—the items come out of the dye vat green and transform into blue in the light. It’s amazing and beautiful and honestly, a lot of fun.
Working with two alumni of the Provence Decor Tours, Susan and I will act as local hosts in four U.S. cities, providing space for Denise and her daughter Miriam to set up a dyeing workshop in:
Chicago Metro area
One of the exciting things for us is that the workshops will be at different venues and parts of the country making the results all different! I’ll be hosting a dyeing workshop in my backyard in the Chicago exurbs, near Aurora, Il. Susan’s workshop is urban; she’ll will be hosting in Brooklyn. Tammi and Debbie will be hosting at locations near Philly and Boston. We can’t wait !
Each workshop on this Woad Trip will be limited to 12 people, to allow for multiple pieces per person without crowding the dye vats. The day-long events will start with an overview on the history of woad and demonstrations the dipping technique, then the rest of the day will be spent dyeing. Here’s what’s included:
- Lunch, beverages & snacks
- Overview on the history of woad with handout to take home
- Demonstrations the dipping techniques
- Personal, hands-on instruction
- Day of dyeing
- Dyeing supplies- Dye, vats, aprons, gloves, etc.
- Some surprises!
Participants must provide their own articles and textiles to dye. Details of what type of items work best and preparation will be provided by your host prior to workshop. The full day event is from 9AM until 4 PM (time zone of event). If your preferred date/city is sold out, we have started a waiting list, in case someone drops out or there’s enough people to fill another day.
Workshop fee is $395