Natural Dyes in the 21st Century
June 8 – August 26, 2017
Opening Reception, Thursday, June 8, 6 – 9 pm
Panel Discussion, Friday, June 9, 6 – 7 pm
Craft Ontario Gallery
1106 Queen St. W., Toronto
For the majority of human history, all colour used by designers, artists and craftsmen
has been obtained from natural sources. Dyes were solely derived from plants,
insects and minerals, with many that were difficult to source and process, making
them highly prized commodities. After a glory period for natural dyes during the
early industrial revolution, which produced beautifully coloured and patterned
textiles, the advent of synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century caused natural dyes
to fall into disuse.
Today, interest in natural dyes is undergoing a global revival, fueled by a growing
awareness of the harmful by-products of the industrial dye process, and a greater understanding of the environmental issues relating to textile production. A new
generation of environmentally conscious artists and designers are exploring the use
of natural dyes while re-examining regional production, often within the context of
a “DIY” approach to life and work. Bioregionalism as an expression of a sense of
place and cultural origin is a dominant theme, and is exemplified by the use of local
dyes and traditional techniques. The rise of the local is also motivated by a desire
to revive post-industrial economies and local, small-scale industries such as dyestuff
and fibre cultivation. Moreover, science and innovation in commercial applications
of natural colour belie dismissive misconceptions about larger-scale applications.
Chromatic Geography examines these new trends, and presents a diversity of
approaches to the use of natural dyes, from scientific research and raw material
development, to innovative, contemporary applications in craft, fashion, design and
art, with personal approaches to materials and aesthetics.
Laura Sansone will join us for the opening reception from New York with her
Mobile Textile Lab, demonstrating how to extract natural dye colour from plants.
These dye solutions will then become part of the Chromatic Geography exhibition,
providing a solar dye system in the front window of the gallery for the duration of
the exhibition. As well, a member of Upper Canada Fibreshed will be in the gallery demonstrating hand spinning, using Ontario-grown fleece dyed with natural dyes.