Shimaai Farm is located in Ishigaki-jima, Japan’s southmost island.
We are growing indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) on the rich soil of Ishigaki without using chemical fertilizers or herbicides. From harvest, fermentation, making dye, to product development and manufacturing, we are handling the whole process by hand. We cherish everything about the island (shima) and indigo (ai), and that’s why we named our brand “Shima-ai”.
We make dye from the nature. Blue and navy is from indigo, and the orange is from garcinia. These colors represent the beautiful nature of the island.
We take enough time to dye the canvas using the natural dye and produce items in natural and casual style.
First, we grow indigo in Ishigaki, which is the northmostpoint where indigo can be planted. These materials have been used by people living on Yaeyama Islands for long time. Because we always wanted to make them more attractive and familiar, we decided to grow our own indigo so that we can understand well about this particular material.
We soak branches and leaves of indigo in the water for about 20 hours, then remove branches and leaves and add lime hydrate and stir. In the beginning, it’s brimming with bubbles, but then, that blue will naturally mix in the liquid. After a while, you’ll see the sediments in the bottom, and that is indigo powder, which is the ingredient of indigo dye. We add wood ash and caustic lime to the powder as well as wheat flour, rice bran and honey for nutrition and ferment it to make dye liquor.
Not only growing indigo, the natural environment of Ishigaki also enables us to extract dye from the plant without heating and ferment dye liquor in the room temperature. We are hoping we can hand this natural yet absolutely logical method to the next generation. Also we don’t use chemicals and return the residues to the land to make it the soil stronger so that we can help to preserve this environment and make full use of it together with our future generation. In order to do that, we devote a great deal of time and care.
Indigo dye gives an impression that it’s only used for traditional crafts and folk arts, and many people feel it’s a little old-fashioned for apparels and accessories. We want to change that perception and make items we can use in our daily life. We will keep evolving so that our products will keep being loved and needed all the time.
Indigo is a species of flowering plant in the bean family, which origin is said to be South America and now widely grown in South East Asia and India. It came to YaeyamaIslands in the ancient era. It’s different from Sukumo in Shikoku, which is made from dyer’s knotweed. We process it to the material called “indigo powder”. Indigo power is the method to extract indigo pigment from the plants and dyes the fabric in true blue.