Printing with warpaint
Woad is on the brink of commerciallity
Updated: After three years of research, UK farms have announced that plans to used Woad as a new dye for printer ink are now within the realms of commercial possibility.
The dye, which was traditionally used to decorate the body - particularly before going into battle - as well as to dye fabric. It was commonly grown in the 16th and 17th centuries, and continued to be used into the 1930's in Europe.
The plant was reintroduced at a cost of &1.2 million. Research institutions and textile and ink industries have come up with half that amount. The next step will require a grant from the European union to fund a three-year investigation into the genetic make-up of the plant.
However, researchers were quick to distance themselves from the spectre of genetically modified crops, saying: "We need to find good plants that will produce good dye."
Kerry Gilbert, a researcher at Bristol university, said that as yet the dye quality is not consistent enough for use in printing, but that the group would be concentrating on the textile market. "In many ways," he said. "We are having to rediscover forgotten knowledge about an ancient crop." ®
Update: A concerned reader writes to inform us that Woad has other properties we have overlooked here, so before you dye yourself blue, have a read:
They seem to be brushing over the fact that woad is a hallucinogenic and you are no longer allowed use it as a body paint. The reason the early Celts used it was it turned them into raving lunatics before a battle. Not particularly hard thing to do really...