Natural Dyeing

When I was in college I called home one day to talk to my special grandparent-ish people, Edna & Ed. I had recently changed majors from Biology to Fine Arts.  When they asked what I would be studying I replied, “Natural Dyeing.”  “What?” they asked, “Why would you want to study that?”  They of course thought I was referring to natural dying, as in how to die in a natural way. Perhaps hospice or something similar.  I of course was referring to color color color.  We had a good laugh when I cleared up the confusion.

As it turned out they were not so wrong in the end.  Since this cancer-ing trip started I have had to look at what it means to live & die well. I have also thought a lot about how my treatments have used up a lifetime of clean living.  The western medicine model for curing is poisonous, and the medical garbage produced with every small procedure is unbelievable. One of the things that I keep hearing from people, is that my cancer-ing diagnosis was particularly  shocking because in general I have so obviously made many healthy lifestyle choices. Eating organic food, riding my bike to work etc.  Clearly the cancer equation is pretty complicated.  And whether or not it can be proven, the biggest contributor is most likely toxins in our environment.

I can’t do much about living next to the radioactive Columbia River for the last 17 years, I can continue to make healthy choices that may reduce toxins, not just for me but for others as well.  (It has not passed my notice that all that double flushing the week of chemo was sending platinum and yew toxins to the river.) I have really resonated with the idea that by addressing my thoughts and actions I can contribute to my own health and wellbeing.  For instance, when I eat locally grown organic produce I support a saner healthier world., and when I am mindful of my thoughts I can spend more time in a relaxed healing state of mind.

Stirring my young fermentation Indigo Vat in 2005- it was not yet ready to use.
Stirring my young fermentation Indigo Vat in 2005  – It was not yet ready for use in this picture.

My BFA degree from UO is in textiles, specifically weaving and natural dyeing.  My business prior to the bakery was creating naturally dyed silk scarves and custom textiles.  One of the things I love so much about natural dyes is that it continues an ancient tradition, and color can be made using both the traditional dyes of commerce, or locally available plants.  A reason that traditional Scottish tartans were different colors, had to do with what plants were available in the area each clan lived.  A project of mine this year of healing is to make myself some new clothes that are made from cloth I can believe in. I am really excited about it.

Rainbow with dyed with natural dyes.
Rainbow dyed with natural dyes.

Which leads me to something I just learned about. One of my dear friends from college, Sandra, has launched a Kickstarter project to fund a business venture creating some really cute children’s clothing with handwoven naturally dyed fabric, partnering with weavers and dyers in Thailand.  Made using fair labor and traditional dyes.  Sandra has been working passionately in natural dyes since we were in school. In recent years with her business Vermilio.  She is who I traveled to Laos with in 2005.

Sandra in Laos in November 2005
Sandra in Laos in November 2005

How Kickstarter works is that you only pay if she successfully raises her whole amount by the deadline. And then you will get one of their products that you choose depending on your pledge. (Pledges start at $10, and many of the rewards are not children’s clothing- so even if you don’t have kids you might like something.) So please check it out, and if you like it please pass it along to others who might enjoy supporting something like this.  The Kickstarter page also has two little films; one about natural dyes, and the other on the more scary toxic clothes. The films were made by Sandra’s Husband and Daughter.

DEADLINE: Thursday July 3rd.
one of the prizes
one of the prizes
Concept drawing for one of the dresses
Concept drawing for one of the dresses
For most of human history every object that we touched was either from the natural world, or made by hands we likely knew.  There was deep meaning in everything we used everyday, from our clothing which declared our community of origin, to the cup we drank from or the spoon we ate from.  It is one of the reasons I am so excited to make things- I love the idea of creating more meaning in my surroundings.  Returning to the studio this year is creating a lot of happiness for me. It is pretty fun to connect to others who are making things too- and though in our global world we might no longer know who made our spoon, sometimes we can at least know a little bit more about them.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Heather says:

    Hi Iris, watch this cool video 🙂 –Heather & Corey

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