Sayaka Toyama: TELLING INDIGO TALES
Based in Brooklyn, New York since 2014, Curious Corners is a heritage-workshop meant to pass along the tradition of Japanese indigo dyeing to fashion and home textiles craftsmanship.
We've met with the creative spirit behind this fresh concept, Sayaka Toyama, to discuss her love for this one-of-a-kind art that shapes the clothes that we have been wearing for centuries in the Better Than Jam store & studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Sayaka shares her story, her techniques and her inspirations behind that textile dyeing process that passionates more and more brands, artists and individuals across New York.
Sayaka, tell us more about yourself!
I’m originally from Japan, I went to school in Boston and I was mainly working as an editor / writer and was also doing a bit of Adwords for a while.
I’ve been doing Indigo Business since 2014 here in New York. About three years ago I met this group of Indigo farmers from Japan. I met them through friends - one of them was visiting in New York to promote indigo. Another friend who was working for them said she knew this indigo dyer who was coming to New York and needed a place to stay. I had a spare room in my apartment as an Airbnb at that time, so I let him stay. Back then I had no idea about indigo dyeing, I was wondering if it was a real job !
Then he came with his indigo vat as he was about to set up a workshop in New York and I let him organize it in my living room. It was his first workshop and it went crazy: 70 people came in 2 days ! It was the first time I discovered what was indigo dyeing and I was fascinated. And also surprised by all the people passionated by it. So I decided to keep the vat.
What led you to pursue your career in indigo dyeing?
I got high interest in Indigo since then. I found it very intriguing actually: it is a plant, the oldest form of dyeing. The oldest piece of clothe dyed in Indigo found is 6000 years old in Peru and was buried. One of my friend was very interested too so we decided to continue and kept in touch with the indigo dyers from Japan. Then I learned how to do it through Skype and how to take care of the vat. It’s almost like the beer brewing process. You have to take care of it everyday to keep it alive.
We decided to open the studio about 2 years ago as we got more and more interest from people, and a lot of press coverage. But last year we had to close it because of the Japanese company we opened the studio with that decided so. They didn’t want to pursue unfortunately so I had to let it go. But I still had clients very interested in indigo so I wanted to keep going.
Now I use this indigo called Yamato indigo which is a mix of natural and synthetic. It comes in a powder which makes the fermentation process much easier. I get it from Japan with this company in Tokyo who actually invented it.
What influenced you to become a textile dyer?
I’ve always liked fashion and textile. If I look at the pictures of when I was young, I always looked fashionable. I’m from the middle of nowhere, like very mountainous zones and nobody cares about the fashion in Nagano. I can still see my parents dressing me and my sister up and they did too so I guess that’s probably that.
What does it take to take such a creative path?
The good thing about shibori - this ancient Japanese dyeing technique - is that you don’t need any specific skill. You don’t need to be a craft person to do shibori workshops. Like of course if you want to make your own art then you have to learn. Some of the persons I teach to are just office workers who want to do something different. And they are able to make very cool patterns, ties and dyes and it becomes very surprising! Sometimes I teach people these very basic things and they come up with very interesting ways to do folding and tying and then creating surprising patterns, and it’s very fun !
How / Where do you find new ideas when you’re struggling ?
I like to go running in the park. And I love sleeping too !
I guess when I have something my head or when I feel stuck the best way I’ve found is to do something with my body.
Can you cite some personalities or artists that inspire you on a daily basis?
Can you share some of your favorite spots in spots in NYC ?
- Sweetleaf Coffee Roasters (@sweetleafnyc) in Long Island City : For me the best coffee shop in the city. They have two more locations but for some reason, I think this location serves the best coffee.
- Estela (@estelanyc): My most recent favorite restaurant. Good dish and good vibe!
- BDDW (bddw.com) a furniture store, always very inspirational! I wish I could live in the store…