The dogwood dyer grows dye plants organically in between the rows of her heritage family orange grove as well as forages for wild plants while traveling to teach in surrounding rural environments like upstate New York. Everything from bark, to berries, to leaves & roots may be used to create a diversity of rich & living colors.
Water is added to the plant materials to create an extraction of color & the fibers are separately pre-treated with a natural substance called a mordant to ensure adequate color adhesion & subsequent lightfastness throughout the lifetime of the garment.
To reduce energy input, many colors are achieved through patience & time without the additional application of heat for extraction. Heat can speed up color extraction from plants but also tends to make many natural dyes dull or muddy. Water saving dye techniques such as bundle dyeing or dyeing with captured rain water are also employed.
Every individual plant imparts a unique & unrepeatable color depending on the soil, sun, rain, harvest time, water qualityand temperatures involved in the growing and processing. These invariable differences are embraced and set the natural dye process apart from using synthetically derived chemical colorants.
Natural dyeing requires the use of many gallons of water, a precious and finite resource. The dogwood dyer recycles 80% of her dye and rinse water back into her orange grove and dye gardens. Below are images of a special urban greening project she pursued with her partner while living in Brooklyn NY. The Brooklyn Tree Guard was a solution to simultaneously find space to grow natural dye plants and increase the biodiversity and health of the neighborhood trees, drawing pollinating insects, birds, and appreciation from neighbors.