I have always loved using what’s around me to make things. I grew up in East Tennessee and my parents had a complete set of the Foxfire books. These books were about Southern Appalachia and various traditions, and I was always drawn to the crafts, arts and plants chapters. They gave all kinds of information about how to use local materials. For example, where I grew up there is an invasive vine called Kudzu. Apparently it can grow up to a foot a day and smothers trees and shrubs below it. It was an abundant material to say the least. I used to put it into a blender to make hand-made paper or use it as a vine to weave baskets.
I went to college and graduate school for textiles. It was during grad school that I read the book Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. It was in some ways reminiscent of the Foxfire books. It talked about how to think about materials before making something and to consider using materials that don’t have to go to a landfill, but instead could be used in a future product or biodegrade. It was at this time, around 2001, that I developed a general philosophy that everything I make should be able to be buried in the backyard.
I started to teach myself how to use natural dyes and understand them from a chemistry perspective. Through experimentation, I began to see that while it was interesting and fun on a small scale, (to dye in pots on a stove), the same principles could apply to large-scale production. My long-term goal is to create a natural dyeing method that uses no harsh chemicals and less water than traditional dyeing methods and can be a viable alternative in the industry.