First Published, October - November 2010, Craft Revival Trust
Schjoelberg was the last indigo dyer to have a workshop in the centre of Trondheim, Norway working until the 1960s. Axel Becker came across a blanket dyed perhaps in 1962-63 by him. Schjoelberg’s house with all its contents intact including his recipes written in secret code has now been moved to Troendelag Folkemuseum in Sverresborg , where other period buildings have been set up. Sadly, says Axel, the house is not open like other houses in the museum, but is used as a store.
Till 1993 Axel Becker printed textiles with chemical dyes, printing hundreds of metres at a time for hotels. He and his family – three daughters and his wife Ingrid -lived in the countryside (as they still do) and rinsing the dyed fabrics in the pools outside, Axel was disturbed by the chemical pollution. Axel’s brother’s wife is Japanese, and she sent him indigo-dyed textiles from Japan. Axel was intrigued and began to study indigo, its history and political connections, including the indigo agitation led by Gandhi. He decided to stop chemical dyeing and “made a big fire and burnt all his printing screens made of local wood”.