After graduating from BA Surface Design at LCC, University of the Arts London, feeling somewhat disenchanted with the toxicity and soullessness of the Arts and Textile industries, I went traveling to seek cultures living closer to the Earth, using non-toxic, plant-based surface application techniques, which are inherently sustainable in their processes.
I began my journey in Northern India where I studied traditional Mughal block printing with vegetable dyes. I learned how to make wooden blocks from my own illustrations, to create repeat patterns and to use vegetable printing inks on cotton and silk.
I created a clothing line which focused on using natural fibres and recycling vintage cloth to make colourful, expressive garments for festivals and events. Inspired by the notion of radical self expression, coined by Burning Man festival, I decided to create garments which allow for exuberance, playfulness and becoming uninhibited. The line is called Playsuit Parlour and has been featured in various magazines, worn by celebrities and traded at many top UK festivals and independent boutiques in London, Bristol, Ibiza and Andalucia. (It has now scaled down to a cute online store on Etsy))
Throughout the years spent running Playsuit Parlour, I would take on the occasional illustration project and also continued to develop my understanding of natural dye materials and techniques around the world.
In Laos, I foraged for madder and indigo, and learned the process for dyeing silk yarns, with Ok Pop Tok.
I spent weeks traveling through Tamil Nadu in Southern India and Jaipur in the North, researching commercial natural dye facilities. I was repeatedly disappointed by the use of various toxic chemicals, cleaning agents and heavy metals in each factory.
In Peru I had the great pleasure of meeting a wonderful Quechuan natural dye master, through the Awamaki organization in the Sacred Valley. I stayed with him and his family for many days at high altitude, learning to identify and harvest local dye plants, extracting their colour, and dyeing skeins of Peruvian wool yarn. The colours we made were incredible, and my favorite will always be the beautiful turquoise we managed to achieve by over-dyeing two plants.
After many years of learning, traveling, designing and making, I returned to my original interest, of exploring British natural dyes and surface application processes. I always hoped to find a non-toxic solution to the chemically dyed and printed textiles and paper arts which have been become standardized since the last 100 years. It has been a relatively short time, in the grand scheme of things, since we stopped using our dye plants for colouring textiles and paper commercially. In the UK, natural dyes were used to for drawing, writing, painting, printing textiles, wall paper and curtains, and even weaving rugs and decorating ceramics. The only visible remnants of our natural dyes are with our vegetable tanneries, of which their are few, and the artisan natural dyers dotted about the country, most of whom are hobbyist spinners, knitters and weavers.
I took time out in the Summer of 2014 to focus on creating a local dye palette of hedgerow/food waste/farm waste dyes, which had to be both interesting and colour-fast. I found that most plants yield some colour, although often just a pale yellow or beige, which does not excite the senses, or last so long. I focused on the plants which gave stronger and deeper results, and were more reliable in terms of wash and light fastness. I did find a wonderful range of colours from the plants growing in the Cotswolds, and I have since used them with a variety of fascinating contemporary and traditional surface application techniques, including block printing, screen printing, bundle dyeing, Hapazome, ice flower dyeing, Japanese Shibori and Batiq. I offer these workshops to private clients and public groups throughout the UK, under the name Botanical Inks.
In 2015 I co-produced the Bristol Cloth project, a cloth production which focuses on local materials and manufacture, for which Botanical Inks supplies a naturally dyed yarn. Myself and Emma Hague, owner of Bristol Textile Quarter, work with local yarn suppliers, Fernhll Farm and weavers, Dash and Miller, who have launched the first working industrial loom in Bristol in 100 years, The Bristol Weaving Mill.
Aside from my entrepreneurial efforts to share non-toxic artisan crafts and playful clothing with the world, I have always found the easiest expression in painting large scale abstract canvases and in recent years I've transitioned to using non-toxic mineral paints, made from, local and exotic, foraged and ground up mineral rocks, mixed with egg to create a traditional tempera. I prefer to recycle reclaimed wooden frames to make my canvases, with linen cloth and chalk tempera as a base. My passion is in creating beautiful direct expressions, which are decorative and safely biodegradable.
My drawings are very simple in their use of only graphite and paper. The paper is responsibly sourced from St Cuthberts Mill in Somerset, very close to my home, and Eco-Craft which uses post-consumer waste and no bleach, to create lovely papers. I enjoy making complex toile drawings with this medium, to inspire the imagination and a sense of wonder. It is a pleasure to receive commissions from people with aligned interests and businesses, and I welcome new enquiries.
I currently teach a variety of contemporary traditional, non-toxic, artisan craft techniques via my business, Botanical Inks
I have also started offering more holistic workshops, under my own name, which combine natural materials and processes, with my wider interests in herbalism, mindfulness, and sacred ritual.