The International Symposium & Exhibition on Natural Dyes was held in La Rochelle, France from the 25th to 30th April. The organisers were Dominique Cardon (researcher and author) and Anne de la Sayette (Director CRITT Horticole).
Each day except Wednesday comprised of lectures in the morning followed by a 3 course lunch (with wine) then back to the lectures until 3.30pm. The market place opened at 3.30pm to both delegates and public, the delegates also had the option of attending various workshops and demonstrations until 6.30pm. On Wednesday there were a selection of excursions to choose from in the morning and then back to the lectures for the afternoon. Saturday the market place was open all day plus there were several excursions in the morning.
Lectures tended to be approximately 10 minutes, grouped into sessions, with a small amount of time allocated at the end for discussion and questions.
As I had taken a market stall I was unable to attend the workshops in the afternoon (or the lunches!), however many of them have been videoed and can be found here. Nor did I get the pretty screen printed bag or any of the paperwork, so only my own notes to go from!
I attended the "round table" on indigo with great anticipation, expecting there to be a good chance for discussion and looking forward to hearing the various lectures. The speakers were producers of woad or indigo and it was fascinating to hear their various production methods and their view of how they are taking their product into the future. Woad in particular seems to be looking forward with Woad Inc looking at the health benefits of the oil in the seeds - they have a range of bath/shower gels, soaps etc. Bleu de Lectoure on the other hand are looking at cosmetics and wood preservatives not to mention the blue corn starch plastics that are being experimented with for recyclable bags, bottles etc. Indigo production in Bangladesh is not a commercial enterprise in terms of specific cultivation - it is grown in any "free" space small areas of uncutivated ground - then collected together and harvested as a co operative. El Salvador have worked out a method of extracting more indigotin and more frequently from their Indigofera suffructiosa and it's organic! Such positive presentations really inspiring!
But what happened to the discussion?
The session leader - when the last speaker had finished - turned to them all and said "do you have any questions for each other?" The main topic was then the "purity" of the product (indigotin) and could it be standardised? What a waste of promising discussion time! When it finally was available to the floor it was very controlled!
The week has left me with my head buzzing and many new contacts and friends made. It is taking a while to assimilate all the information that was available there, some good, some as described above very disappointing. The overall feel of the symposium seemed to be that it was for industrial scale producers rather than artisans, yet those producers were feeling that their audience were the wrong people!
I have to agree with India Flint about the industrial scale production of natural dyes - we are going to have to have a balance between growing food and growing other things - there are already many countries who cannot grow enough food let alone turn their land over to growing dyestuff. In which case we have to collect from the wild and then ...........!
The industrialists were also missing the point that many of the small artisans have had to deal with the same cutivation problems they are going through - and work out a method to get over it, more discussion and less controlling would have been beneficial!
Overall I had a fabulous week and enjoyed it very much, came home absolutely shattered, but VERY inspired!
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