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Shared Craft Knowledge
It is important to acknowledge that the processes we use to create our products were informed by indigenous cultures in Canada, Mexico, and Japan, primarily. We believe in sharing craft knowledge and keeping these traditions alive, but also in ensuring that we recognize their roots.
Here is a mini glossary of the techniques we use, and their origins:
Shibori is considered one of the oldest dye techniques in Japan, dating back to the Edo period between the 17th and 19th centuries, though it was originally developed in China. There are examples of shibori-dyed textiles dating back as far as the 8th century. There are many forms of shibori dyeing techniques, and a very distant but modern example is the rainbow-coloured tie-dye techniques popularized in the 1960’s. We love integrating certain traditional shibori techniques into our natural dye practice, gaining much of our inspiration from the Japanese artisans of long ago.
Bundle-dyeing is a method that uses steam to gently imprint the colours and shapes of flowers and other plant materials onto a textile. Eco-printing is a similar dye technique, first discovered by Australian natural dyer India Flint, characterized by the use of leafs and plants, bundled with tree barks that are bound and boiled to create an imprint onto the cloth. We liken bundle-dyeing to watercolour painting, with the dreamy fluid shapes and colours that bleed into each other and create imprints similar to Impressionist paintings.
The painting of textiles originated in China, where the art of calligraphy on silk marked the beginning of this practice, dating back to the Han dynasty (206 BCE). The art of silk painting blossomed into the adorning of silk with designs using mineral pigments, the earliest examples of this dating back to between 475-221 BCE. The craft of silk painting developed into the gongbi technique, with which Chinese artisans would paint meticulously detailed compositions onto silk. This variation of the craft was developed and popularized between the 7th and 13th centuries, but continues into the present day. We paint on silk and other natural textiles using mineral and plant based pigments, reminiscent of the ancient ways of Chinese artisans.
Mordanting is a process of preparing a textile so that it can more readily absorb the colour. We favour alum mordants, as they are non-toxic and help our botanical dyes really shine, increasing their wash-fastness and the permanency of the colour.
Foraging for plant materials
Foraging for dye materials helps us to connect with our environment and create in collaboration with the seasons because each season provides us with a window of time that particular plants are available. For example, we can collect goldenrod in the Spring and Autumn but not during the Summer or Winter. Roses are only available during the warmer months, and the season of black walnut harvesting is Autumn. There are many botanical dyes we can make using what we can collect from nature, but we need to ensure we’re mindful about what and how we take wild materials.
Be sure to know what you are harvesting. Foraging for wild plants is permitted in Ontario where we live on most public land, but be sure to obtain permission from the land owner when foraging on private property. Beware of signs in provincial parks that forbid harvesting and respect them. Management goals vary for protected areas and nature reserves – ensure that wild foraging is permitted in these areas before harvesting, take only what you can use and use what you take.
Wild plants are a shared resource, and we must be mindful of their wellbeing and ability to thrive after harvesting.
A general rule is to collect only 5% of any individual patch of a given species within a maximum of 25% of an area. Improper harvesting and over-harvesting can have a significant negative impact on the ability of a species to reproduce. Doing this can lead to the disappearance of a species from an area and the loss of local biodiversity, affecting both humans and other animals. Ensuring you are harvesting certain plants at the right time of year is important as well, as some plants and some parts of a plant (flowers, fruit, etc.) are not available all year. Harvesting prematurely can impact the species’ ability to reproduce and thrive.
Three great resources for extended reading on this are: