Natural Dye Printing by Thea Haines

Plants are the source of colour, imagery and meaning in my work, through drawing, stitch, dye and print.  Our historical relationship with plants is symbiotic – human livelihood inextricably interconnected with the natural world.  The process of my work reflects this; colour gives rise to embroidered marks, which kindle drawn lines, which in turn become the printed image.

While I believe I have already been employing several of TED’s Ten strategies in my practice, the TED Research Group has increased my awareness of the many important issues a designer and maker of objects must consider. 

History and nature hold valuable design lessons that increasingly inform my practice. Reconsidering design and lifestyle practices of the past with a critical perspective teach us valuable object lessons.  Different parts of many plants, such as rhubarb may be consumed as food (stalk) and used as dye (leaf). Historical and cultural examples of dress, such as the Mexican huipil, a tunic made from one piece of cloth with very little cutting and no waste, have inspired the forms for my own collection. My own work has always featured personal stories and imagery mined from family history or literature.  Evocative imagery may spark similar memories or reactions in others, creating emotional attachment to objects of enduring value. The focus of my MA project at Chelsea is natural dye printing. I choose to use natural dyes for their wonderful, harmonious colour properties, and to reduce my own chemical exposure and impact on the environment. With any textile print or dyeing process, water and energy use must be of primary consideration. In my future research, I hope to further examine simple technologies such as grey water systems and filtration that would allow for recycling of water used in the dyeing process, allowing residues to be composted, which have been researched and employed by BioDye, an Indian natural dye company. I am absorbed by burgeoning natural dye projects being established by community groups, collectives and grass-roots organizations, which I see as being a part of the larger DIY movement, signaling an intent by people to renew their connection to their food, the landscape and using their hands. My own collective, The Beehive, is engaged in just this kind of activity.

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