We've spoken a little about Master Thiti in a previous story - but we wanted to share with you his very singular way of indigo dyeing that we experienced when we did a little collaborative dyeing.
Indigo is his "joint favourite" dye (along with ebony - a fruit that produces a range of greys and blacks) and his enthusiasm really shows. He straddles a line between perfection of form and expression that's infectious - like a master baker that no longer measures ingredients - instinctively throwing portions into a mix with a flourish.
When we arrived at his home (which also serves as his workshop) we were met by a pot of yarn billowing steaming air high into the neighbouring treetop. He was scouring them - removing any starch and residue left on them from spinning.
We peered in and immediately noticed a leaf from the neighbouring tree had dropped in. We told him immediately - sure the batch would be ruined - but he gave us a wistful smile and explained "It's all nature. It's okay. This tree makes blue too but I not know why".
He extracts his own dyes too - but for the moment he's using indigo paste from Laos. It's a thick, slimy inky black blob far removed from what we're used to (most places we visit use a dried powdered extract).
A handful of paste (technical measuremt) gets put into a large stone bowl. He adds fruit from his garden to regulate acidity (starfruit of thai limes - he isn't fussy), water filtered through ash (made from burned banana skins), tamarind and perhaps a little water depending on 'the look' of the mix.
Finally - and this is a tip passed onto him from an old hilltribe lady from China - he gives the vat a nice long shot of whiskey. He says there are many 'reasons' for this (using his fingers to gesticulate with inverted commas how futile us wanting to make 'sense' of it all is) but cheif among them is to get the bacteria - the chaps making the magic happen - drunk. Drunk vats make "much beautiful colour".
The vat then needs a few days to mature before use - but after that you just need to top it up with a little of each thing again.
The Master then went to attend his silk moths and have a cold beer while we hung out with his helpers - his rag-tag collection of pooches that loved to help and photobomb pictures we were trying to get with our first Thai vat.