TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doris Florig: Weaver on a Boat, Explorer of Traditions

"Grand Isle Corn" by Doris Florig
Searching for the Ruins of an Indigo Plantation

By Doris Florig

Six years ago, each time I told  friends that my husband, Dennis, and I had decided to spend our winters on our cruising sail boat, the first thing they all said was, “so I guess you will have to give up weaving”.  Well, I knew that was not a possibility. I knew I could adjust to nomadic style looms, but, I had no idea that my knowledge of weaving would grow with such diversity. Weaving has given me the key to open the doors to connect with new people, their culture and history.

Doris learning about mud dyeing from a Carib Amerindian in Dominica.

Dennis checking the sail trim.
Most recently, while sailing the Eastern Caribbean chain, we sailed to the island of Maria-Galante, Guadeloupe. Before arriving, I looked through a French publication by the Conseil General De La Guadeloupe. It showed a photo of ruins of 17th century indigo processing vats. My experience with natural dyeing is extensive but lacking in any exposure to Indigo. I knew that this was to be the beginning of what would develop into an intensive study of INDIGO. We rented a car and set out on a quest to broaden my knowledge of the history and the processing of Indigo. 

It wasn’t as easy as I thought. Somehow I guess I was thinking there would be something very oblivious like a sign saying “Historic Site”. We found the general area, but not the site.  I approached an elderly French women on the roadside. Knowing that neither of us spoke the same language, I approached her with the photo of the ruins and a map. Well, the map was of no help. I had forgotten that people, who don’t travel, can’t relate to maps. The photo was of some help, but we didn’t connect until I pointed to the blue on her dress and said INDIGO.  I detected a slight smile and twinkle in her eye that indicated she understood. She pointed towards the sea.  So, downhill I went and quickly discovered a field with a small low stone structure, possibly an old barn. Ignoring the oxen scattered about the field, I headed toward the structure not knowing what to expect.

The oxen didn't bother Dennis.

It took a while but eventually, I realized that it could be nothing other than the foundation for the production of Indigo.

Indigo vat ruins in Guadeloupe.

The stone ruins formed three very distinct shapes approximately 12 x 12 feet which indicated to me that these were the walls of the vats. The first vat was for fermenting the indigo for a period of 24 hours. The second vat would have been used for the churning process and the third vat used for draining the fluid from the sludge used to make the dye.  The whole thing was a mystery until I saw the openings for the draining process. That was a dead give-away, I had indeed discovered the ruins from a 17th century Indigo Plantation. I felt like an amateur archeologist. The discovery of this foundation is now the beginning of my quest to fully understand and experience the process of dyeing with indigo.

Dennis discovered the remains of an old cauldron. We think it was original equipment used in  the processing.

At the next island, Domonica, we visited a Carib Reservation. They knew no history of Indigo dyeing but Dennis and I were convinced that they were cooking their Cassava bread on a broken historic cauldron.

Doris Florig is a weaver/fiber artist. She will teach natural dye classes in Jackson Hole this summer. On Aug 6 and 7, 2011 she will present a natural dye lecture and a demonstration in Fargo, North Dakota.

Visit Doris Florig's website.

Doris, in the saloon,settled into weaving her winter tapestry project, THE GATES OF NAHANNI.  The original painting for this cartoon was done by Dwayne Harty supported by the Yellowstone Yukon Conservation Project directed by Harvey Locke.



  1. Great story, Rachel. And Doris' woven piece at the top is stunning!

  2. Great story. Doris will be in Fargo for 2 days at the Fiber Arts Festival. You can get more details at http://www.fiberartsfest.com


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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