The City Magazine Since 1975

On the Town: Into the Blue

Thursday, June 2, 2016


(Clockwise from left) Professor David Pastre (second from left) and his Clemson Architecture Center students inside their under-construction VAT SHACK; James Simons Elementary students helped grow indigo plants that will be harvested in the fall; and Indigo-dyed napkins by Leigh Magar, one of VAT SHACK’s “Den Mamas.” Photographs by (2) Michael Powell and courtesy of (Madame Magar napkins) Leigh Magar

June 2, 2016

Into the Blue
Enough Pie’s VAT SHACK launches this Saturday, June 4, inviting the community to get hands-on with the historic art of indigo-dyeing

written by Anna Evans

June 4 is shaping up to be a banner day for Charleston. At 11 a.m., Mayor Tecklenburg cuts the ribbon at Colonial Lake Park’s grand reopening. Then at 4 p.m., on the other side of the peninsula—in the green space behind public housing facility Joseph Floyd Manor—AWAKENING IV: INDIGO begins.


At the celebration, organizer Enough Pie launches a project, VAT SHACK, that might be considered just as momentous as that newly beautified lake. A mobile unit designed and constructed by students in the Studio V class at the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston, VAT SHACK is South Carolina’s first-known public space dedicated to indigo-dyeing.


“Indigo was a major 18th-century cash crop in the Lowcountry, and local experts and artists are leading a movement to bring back the original seed and natural dye process,” explains Cathryn Zommer, executive director of Enough Pie.


Housing two indigo vats, VAT SHACK falls right in line with the nonprofit’s mission of catalyzing “inclusive and inspiring community engagement in the Upper Peninsula” via collaborations with area organizations and artists. The Sustainability Institute, for example, advised on the structure’s solar panels and rain-catching system. Interested Joseph Floyd residents volunteered to tend the on-site indigo crop, and artists including Arianne King Comer, Kristy Bishop, Leigh Magar, and Heather K. Powers serve as “Den Mamas,” leading workshops, kids’ camps, community dye days (see below), and more through December. “VAT SHACK not only honors our history, it informs our future,” says Zommer.


For details on AWAKENING IV: INDIGO, VAT SHACK Community Dye Days, and more, click here.


To read more articles from our June issue, click here.