An Invitation to Explore by Kerstin Zurbrigg

The Chesapeake Fibershed is looking to explore in community an earth centered practice of finding colors for our textiles from within in our landscape.

Our intent is to open our dialog and the beginning of a series of invitations and forays into the colors of our local landscape.  Our journeys will take a seasonal tone in that we plan to explore our relationships with three to four plants a season.  From these explorations we hope to develop color palettes and to cultivate understandings of the history and potential of the plants and minerals in our fibershed.  We welcome community conversations and hope to create a platform to share ideas and inspirations.

How do you relate to your landscape and to the earth?  What is your relationship to the plants and minerals around you, and in our extended fibershed?   It is through natural dyeing that many of us have the opportunity to experience deeper relationships to the earth and its seasonal shifts.  Through our experiences with plants we discover not just the release of colors, but also a greater awareness of place and a sense of belonging and being in conversation with the living landscape of our local spaces. The gift of the practice of natural dyeing, the release of color and medicine in our fibers, brings a wealth of complex and wondrous hues, healing gestures and alternatives to dye systems which continue to cause significant harm to our planet.

In the spirit of conversation, plants invite us to think beyond the recipe, towards the deepening of a relationship to the processes of natural dyeing.  In thinking about harvest, whether from our own cultivated gardens, or wilder fields and forgotten spaces, we have opportunities to think beyond what we can gain in inspiration and color, towards what we can give back through connection, mindful tending, sustainable foraging practices and appreciation.  In this way, we are not just asking of plants and earth minerals, what can you give and bring, but we are asking of ourselves too what can we bring, give, and how we can be in relationship to the place, the earth and to the planet.  At the very least, to be open to seeing and responding to the plants around us we are entering into a different kind of dialogue, that of being in community with the earth.  In this way of working, of appreciation and acknowledging, we enter the spirit of reciprocity, a concept used in the writings of Robin Wall Kimmerer to help draw focus and attention to our relationship to the natural world and as an element of our work with plants as dyes. 

Where do we begin in our personal journeys with plants as a dye source?  For those just beginning their explorations we have posted a resource list of some of our favorite dye books, as well as a list of places to purchase plants and seeds.  It is our hope that we will find ways to share our experiences and to grow, collectively a sense of the identity of this place and its history through our stories and practices as well as exploring the colors, traditions and histories of the plants we chose to grow and invite to our cultivated spaces.


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