Back in July, I had the privilege of attending Earthues’ Dealers Conference, a week-long full day and night workshop on handpainting with natural dyes and indigo. I was a bit hesitant at first since it was scheduled to begin on the night of my birthday and it was a bit sad to think I’d be spending my birthday alone in some random hostel with 15 other strangers… but it ended up being such a wonderful, inspiring experience. I don’t know how it could have been better. We spent from 10 am to 5 pm handpainting and dyeing various yarns with Michele’s natural dye colourways, left the Ballard studio for some dinner with the group, then returned each evening for another one or two hour lecture. One evening, Michele and Kathy demonstrated, side-by-side, the difference between their bio/organic indigo and the indigofera guatamalensis. These women know their indigo.
Another evening, we discussed eco-friendly dyes and minimizing resources including water and energy. Really simple things like covering your dye pots allows the water to heat up 22% faster. And another evening, Michele presented her projects with communities in Senegal and setting them up for natural dyeing and production.
Always, I think my greatest inspiration comes from seeing the infinite variety of exquisitely sophisticated colours that are possible from just a few natural dyes. Every time I see the yarn samples laid out in front of me, something in me is challenged to increase my skill and knowledge in dyeing and natural dyeing. It’s both comforting and exciting to think that I have all my future years to explore new aspects of dyeing.
I spent the week among fifteen amazingly wise and talented women and it was undeniably inspiring. I met a woman who raises CVM sheep in New Hampshire, another woman who makes her own goat cheese in Idaho, another woman who designs and makes handmade naturally dyed rugs in Nepal AND teaches full-time at the university textile program, women who have been natural dyeing for thirty years now… and they are all incredibly diverse examples of living and working out their lives on their own terms. It’s the kind of message I needed to receive on my birthday, I think. That however unconventional our careers and paths may seem, a life can be built on a passion for fibre. That however difficult or challenging it may seem, others have gone before you and it has been done. Nothing is impossible.