9.11.2011

Artist : Rebecca Burgess

Rebecca Burgess is a textile artist and educator who works with natural dyes. Her book Harvesting Color was just published. It offers an overview of wild and natural plants one can easily find across the US to use as dyes. Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco hosted her free lecture and workshop today. It opened up a lot of possiblities for future ideas in my own work.

Rebecca Burgess stirring the dye vat.
Rebecca gave us an overview of dyeing with common locally known plants, using coreopsis as a sample. She is currently growing coreopsis as well as Indigo on her own property in Marin. Here is a season's worth of dried coreopsis from farmer's market bouquets nearby.


The orange dye baths were a beauty in themselves. She encouraged us to bring a small fabric or yarn sample to try out the process.


It was crowded but somehow we all managed to slip in a sample.

Amazing setting at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco.
I brought along a natural linen and couldn't believe how well it took the dye in just five minutes. Look at that orange!


Afterwards, we dipped our fabrics in either wood ash or lemon juice for a few seconds. Can it get more beautiful than this with all these galvanized buckets and bamboo sticks?


In addition to focusing on natural dyes and harvesting Rebecca has also created the Fibershed Project. She challenges participants to wear only clothing made from sources found within a 150 mile radius. This is where I see new ideas popping into my head about a future series:

The Fibershed project is inspired by the need to swing the pendulum of our production- and our consumption to a more balanced state, that supports the health of all humans and the greater ecological system of which we are apart; through the re-integration of organic fibers, natural dyes, and a regional base that supports local communities and economies.

In my community alone thousands upon thousands of pounds of wool are composted or thrown into the landfills each year. We have a 13% unemployment rate, all the while if you go to a store to buy a wool undershirt– the raw material is from New Zealand, and the production from China.

The Fibershed concept was coined in response to this extreme situation–with the inspiration that farming, milling, production and manufacturing could once again live in balance with the land we call home.

Rebecca Burgess


Image by Paige Green

I heard Rebecca mention mills and my ears perked up. In my latest research on my southern foreclosure quilt, I searched everywhere for mills. They exist, but they are dwindling rapidly. Even since the 2000's, the US are losing mills to other countries. I love the idea of bringing the mills back to produce our own products. Now how to share this idea in my artwork?

See Rebecca's website here and The Fibershed Project here. Rebecca's book is available here.

10 comments:

lotta said...

I just got Rebecca's book. It is both beautiful and useful. Love how well the linen dyed in the coreopsis bath - something to try... Also like your idea of tracking down mills, it is so sad that they are disappearing.

iNd!@nA said...

well at least the US has a few mills.
so far as i can tell, Australia's textile industry has been pretty much wiped out

kitty kilian said...

The Mills Quilts.. Nice sound rhyme.. This was totally your thing, wasn't it!

Claire said...

We have many mills in Bradford, Yorkshire. Mostly repurposed or derelict though. Rebecca's practice looks very interesting, thanks for sharing.

k said...

very interesting - both your dyeing and the fibreshed project. i do wish we had more local mills in canada to make clothing, as i value the wool clothing i have, but know much of it comes from overseas. good luck with more dye experiments - i have been playing with lots of natural dyes this summer, mainly from items foraged nearby.

Sophie Truong said...

im envious! the workshop must have been great. alabama chani is very inspiring too re. using local/cottage/traditional indstries but i know u r already familiar w her work. she'd be a gratperson for u to collaborate with!!

Lari Washburn said...

That must have been so interesting, and sounds like you learned and got inspired. It's the way things change...little by little...with people talking like this to one another.

lisa s said...

how cool !!
that orange really is stunning.

have you read color by victoria finlay? it's fun to really read about specific colors/dyes how they are made and where they come from

Victoria said...

I will have to look for her book. I have been reading India Flint's book, and this would make a great addition!

I currently have little eco bundles of fabric tucked all over the yard and have been keeping a pot on the stove to brew garden bits and fabric... but I haven't come close to anything like that gorgeous orange dye... wow!

Your idea about the mills is really exciting... looking forward to seeing how you develop it. (And I agree, it would be wonderful to bring back this industry.)

Katrina said...

love, love it! a friend of mine just published a book about natural dyes. it's a lovely book, you might like: http://www.timberpress.com/books/handbook_natural_plant_dyes/duerr/9781604690712

xoxo,
k

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