Healing Through Dyeing

Relieving pain and anxiety

From a young age, I suffered chronic migraines that Western medicine failed to diagnose.  Not understanding why my head and body would start the day aching, why sometimes days at a time would disappear into darkness and pain, I developed anxiety around my own physical needs and the depression that comes from living with constant pain.  Over time, I recognized that unnatural chemical smells, perfumes and junk food triggered or exacerbated my headaches.  I would feel better – healed even – when I was outside breathing in the clean air of the ocean or standing under a canopy of giant redwoods or feeling the earth under my bare feet or meandering on the beach collecting sea glass or just sitting in my garden feeling the sunshine on my face.

I am deeply bothered by the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons that are spread across our land, released into our water and introduced into our food.  As a fiber artist, I am driven to make art that shows how we can create beauty from nature’s offerings, working only with natural fibers and dyes.  My intention is to promote our basic human rights to clean water, air, soil and health through my work, making a conscious effort to highlight the environmental context of my art.  If I’m using cotton muslin it will be organically grown. The natural dyes come from fair trade companies or are harvested from barks and berries in nearby woods or from my garden of calendula, coreopsis, indigo and other plants. 

I often spin my own yarn from local sheep for my woven pieces; the meditative repetition of the turning wheel nurtures my soul and wards off my pain.  I am careful not to taint my work with petrochemical dyes or fabrics so there is integrity and truth behind my message.  I love breathing in the fragrance of the plants, and I welcome the traces of floral perfume that are left behind on the cloth.  Sometimes I take a bit of the color out of the cloth after it’s been woven.  After that I go to my sewing machine and add a layer of back and forth, undulating stitches to give the work texture, interest and a little more body.  And then comes my favorite part where I can add story through embroidery.  I accentuate lines and add features that create texture and color.

My themes are of plant matter and ephemera with an eye towards awakening the environmentalist in all of us by embellishing shapes with stitch and color to draw the eye to the smallest detail of the tiniest leaf.  I have long been fascinated with how the manipulation of thread can paint a picture using the symbols of my environment to represent my desire for lasting sustainability.

The quietness of my life and sense of place shows in my work.  The viewer is drawn in to see detail of the flowers that they may never have noticed before, awakening an appreciation that I must have spent many long hours contemplating the beauty of these objects and spaces in order to capture their color and grandeur.  By adding layers of colors and texture to my images, I evoke a sense of time-slowing wonder of a small slice of nature.

Currently, I am working with the Port Townsend School of the Arts in the picturesque seaside town of Port Townsend, WA, helping them to develop a fiber arts program. ptschoolofthearts.org



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