We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 4th in our series on Supper Table Artists.
Each of the 12 (actually 13 with the Grimke sisters) honored & historical women seated at the Supper Table is being celebrated by four different artists including a visual artist, a literary artist who writes an essay about the subject for the book Setting the Supper Table, a filmmaker who creates a 90 second film, and a theatrical artist who will perform a staged oration during our premiere in September.
Laurie Brownell McIntosh and Eva Moore are, respectively the visual and literary artists honoring Eliza Lucas Pinckney, the colonial entrepreneur who, with the vital assistance of the enslaved individuals who were attached to the Pinckney plantations, cultivated and developed indigo as a cash crop accounting for 1/3 of the total exports from the colony.
About her place-setting McIntosh writes, “I sought guidance on all things indigo from South Carolina, indigo dye artist, Caroline Harper. I attended two workshops with her to learn the growing and dying process used in dying fabrics with traditional indigo. She supplied me with some of her precious South Carolina grown indigo pigment that she and her husband harvest and produce yearly... as well as the seed and roots from the plant.”
McIntosh continues, “All of the blue you see in my piece is made from this dye mixed with different paint mediums. (the exception being the writing on the bowl... that is just dark blue ink... after many tries I realized I could not get the consistency to flow freely enough for handwriting). The yellows in my piece represent the middle phase of the dying process. Once the fabric is submerged into the dye vat of the indigo mixture the fabric surprisingly turns yellow and stays this way until it is pulled from the vat and the oxygen turns it the rich dark blue associated with indigo. The three apothecary bottles in the setting represent this graduated process.”
Eva Moore is a Columbia-based writer who cares about food, local government, and outdoor places. The former editor of Columbia’s Free Times newspaper, she now works in state government. In her eloquent look at the controversial Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s contributions, Moore writes, “At Wappoo plantation, where Eliza lived when she first came to South Carolina, her family enslaved 20 people. In later years there would be more. … Eliza Lucas Pinckney lived a remarkable and fortunate life, but did so at the expense of other lives.”
Moore continues, “Indigo is not like other natural dyes. It doesn’t come out of the indigo plant easily; in fact it doesn’t come directly out of the plant at all. After harvesting, the leaves must be pounded and fermented over hours or days to create a chemical reaction. Depending on who you ask, fermenting indigo smells like ammonia, urine, cow poop or wet dog, and the odor is so intense that the fermentation must be done well away from places where people live and eat. Done at a large scale, it can attract flies and other insects.”
“In colonial South Carolina, in the mid-1700s, indigo processing took place during the hot summer and fall,” she writes.
“It’s hard to comprehend the horrors of the process, because lately, indigo dyeing has made its way into the boutique textile category in South Carolina. … Eliza Pinckney almost certainly didn’t pound the indigo leaves or stir the stinking vats. She didn’t till the ground, or weed the fields, or harvest the leaves. That work was done by people enslaved by her family.“
To read more of this fascinating essay and 11 others, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table.