Source: Bloom Magazine
Artist Rowland Ricketts met his wife, weaver Chinami Ricketts, in Japan over big vats of indigo when they were apprentices with a family of dyers more than two decades ago. Today, though their Bloomington home is a world away, “indigo remains the point where our work converges,” Rowland says.
The convergence is literal, because they and their three sons live in a house fronted by a field of indigo that is also bordered by their studios. Inside one studio, Chinami weaves the exquisite fabrics that are traditionally used for kimonos and obi. In another studio, her husband ferments the leaves of the indigo they and their sons harvest several times a summer to produce the dye used to color the textiles used in Rowland’s art installations, which have been exhibited around the world–from museums in Boston and Seattle to Tokushima, Japan.
Their artistic convergence springs from their shared dedication to their art. “It sounds very selfish, but I weave what I want to wear,” Chinami explains. She left a career with a Japanese pharmaceutical company to learn dying and, later, weaving. “I wanted to do a job that I would never retire from,” she says.
While Chinami was completing her second apprenticeship, the two ran and indigo farm and studio in Japan. “We learned it can be quite challenging to produce the things that other people want, which are not necessarily the things you want,” Rowland says. “I decided I wanted to go back to school and study art and take the traditional ideas I’d learned in Japan and combine it with something from my own culture and background.”
So, the two came to the United States. “We said we’d give it five years and if it didn’t work, we’d go back to Japan,” Rowland explains. It worked quite well. Rowland is currently a professor and an associate dean at the Indiana University Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design. While he devotes himself to his teaching and to his contemporary textiles spanning art and design, Chinami spends months of painstaking design and preparation to produce each bolt of fabric. She used to send her fabric to dealers in Japan, but as kimonos have become less popular, she has shifted to supplying textiles to home designers.