Berkley Heath

Berkley Heath

Plant dyes came to me by accident when I dipped a shirtsleeve into a bowl of elderberry juice and, delighted by the result, began researching how to make this incredibly vibrant color last. I quickly acquired mordants to make the colors "stick" and stainless steel vessels and took over the small shared kitchen in my house with various bubbling experiments, a method which, by the way, I do not recommend! I now keep my dye practice away from the kitchen and, though the first shirt now hangs faded in my closet, it was just the first trial in an every-continuing exploration of the color sources at our fingertips in the natural world. 

I have long been fascinated by the sources of the most basic items in our daily lives, especially food and medicine, and suddenly clothing and color became a focus as well. Inspired by traditional textile printing and painting techniques from all over the world, I began to apply my various carved designs, originally in linoleum, wood, or cut paper, to fabric. I use screenprinting techniques, hand-cut stencils, and stamps to transfer either resist materials (for use with indigo) or various mordants (metallic salt fixatives) to fibers. I am experimenting with applying stenciled dye pastes directly to fabric as well. 

Japenese Indigo Perisicaria tinctoria
Foraged violet flowers

These methods are directly informed by studying traditional textile printing and painting techniques such as katazome (a Japanese rice paste resist technique using hand-cut stencils), ajrakh block printing from India and Pakistan, and kalamkari printing and painting produced in India. I am continually in awe of countless artisans and craftspeople who have come before me. I make changes to the processes along the way as I continue to learn, making use of the materials that are accessible to me and those that are, ideally, locally produced or foraged. I am dedicated to exploring design possibilities with natural dyes, using traditional methods when applicable, and decreasing negative environmental impact whenever possible.