Scanning the textile shelf at my local used bookstore yielded a serendipitous find: a small paperback entitled Dyes from Nature: Plants & Gardens (Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record, Vol. 46, No. 2). Published in 1990, the 96 page volume features 28 articles by 21 different authors, experts and/or dyers, describing natural dye traditions from Mexico, Turkey, Japan and many other cultures around the globe. Each article includes color photographs. Fanning the pages in the bookstore, I noticed two articles written by M. Joan Lintault, a fiber artist and author of two blogs I follow (Magic of Light, Mystery of Shadow and My Wabi Life).
Check out this post from her blog about using natural dyes in the Japanese tradition of kusaki-zome (grass and tree dyes).
Joan sent me a few paragraphs describing her passion for natural dyeing:
I can hardly remember when I became interested in natural dyes. It was certainly when I was in the Peace Corps 43 years ago. I was living in the mountain village of Quinoa, Peru. The village ladies taught me to spin, dye with walnuts, cochineal and dahlia flowers.
My interest continues today because I do love a mystery and I still can’t believe it works. I especially love indigo dyeing because it is the mystery of all mysteries. I love giving control of my work to the dye pot and receiving in return the random flashes that can be likened to fire marks on a piece of pottery.
I like that indigo is considered a living entity in many cultures. Most importantly learning about natural dyes is empirical knowledge handed down from one person to another. My love of dyeing led me to research the processes from India then to Japan. I wanted to go to these places and see for myself what processes existed and how the process changed from culture to culture.