More than a Blue Rug: Exploring the Origins of Indigo
Every time you put on a pair of blue jeans, it’s easy to overlook the denim dye, indigo - a deep blue dye that goes back farther than any other color. This rich moody blue is woven over the millennia throughout human history and across oceans, culminating as inspiration for our new Coastal Collection. Indigo’s trail across time and space gave us tremendous inspiration for the concepts developed in our new Coastal Collection. We make washable rugs built for practicality, but equally important to us are the designs. We pour a lot of creative energy into designing, even devising our own special shade of indigo for this collection.
History of the Oldest Blue
Throughout human history, we’ve found a few creative ways to conjure up indigo blue. From various sea snails found in the Mediterranean Sea, to a flowering plant called woad (otherwise known as the Asp of Jerusalem), to indigo or Indigofera tinctoria, a bean plant whose leaves produce the rich, highly sought after indigo.
True indigo was discovered as early as 3300 B.C. in the Indus Valley of India and Pakistan. Over the centuries, word spread of this plant’s incredibly distinctive color, which many artisans felt was way more impressive than woad’s dyeing capabilities.
As word spread, the indigo seeds traveled, so far and wide in fact that it’s not entirely clear where this plant is actually native to.
In the days before 2-day shipping, indigo made months-long journeys across vast oceans to reach people clamoring for this exquisite color, and it quickly became a color reserved only for the royalty. When Marco Polo returned to the Americas with indigo, it quickly started a demand for indigo that would make this sought after color a status symbol. In fact, true indigo was so sought after and available in such limited quantities that it was often referred to as “blue gold” - a color that truly ruled the world!
It wasn’t until the 1860s that German chemist Adolf von Baeyer managed to create a synthetic form of indigo that was able to match the incredible dye properties of the natural form, and the color became readily available in the Americas and Europe.
Since the advent of synthetic dyes and digital printing, today’s indigo hues seen in home decor and clothing are accessible and plentiful (think denim). Use of the plant indigo is reserved for dye traditionalists. Despite that, some people still practice the dyeing traditions of old. It’s messy, but it’s beautiful.
"Indigo is more than just a color, it’s a vivid trail that paints a line throughout human history and transcends geographic boundaries, finding its way into the most beautiful washable blue rugs you’ll ever lay eyes on."
Making Indigo Interiors Work
Inspired by ancient dyeing techniques and executed by our own modern printers, we immersed ourselves in the history of this dye in the creation of these new patterns. We fell particularly in love with the shibori ichi, ni and san rugs, which were designed using one of these traditional indigo dyeing techniques from Japan. You can read more about Shiboris here.
Indigo is a bold color, and one that you have to do justice in your interior without letting it overpower you with its sometimes moody hue. With indigo, it’s all about high contrast. Indigo is your big, in-your-face, dark color — now find something light and bright to compliment it. Our favorite way to make indigo feel included is to pair it up with a natural tone — it takes the mood right out of this intense color and makes it all the more profound.
Indigo is more than just a color, it’s a vivid trail that paints a line throughout human history and transcends geographic boundaries, finding its way into the most beautiful washable blue rugs you’ll ever lay eyes on.