ROS HUMPHRIES - THE NATURAL DYEWORKS

Ros makes ‘small batch, slow crafted, hand dyed ribbons, accessories and homewares using the alchemy of 100% plant based dyes, which are natural and non toxic, crafting an ever evolving palette of colours through the use of petals, leaves, bark, roots and seeds. The process is 100% natural, slow and sustainable and care for the environment is at the heart of what they do.’



We couldn’t be more excited to share our Autumn Equinox celebration at Water Lane on 24th September with someone who so mirrors our values and ethos. There will be the opportunity to try both bundle dying and eco printing using ingredients cut from the walled garden as well as brought from our plots and Ros’s very own dye allotment to produce a beautiful ribbon and a silk square to take home along with the knowledge to be able to do it in your own time. To get you excited, here she talks more about the principles behind her practice:


TELL US ABOUT THE BEGINNING, HOW DID YOUR EXPLORATION INTO DYEING BEGIN, AND WHY?


I was reading more and more about sustainability and the environmental impact of the textile industry. At the time I was on maternity leave from my job as a textiles buyer for a homewares brand. I’ve always loved colour - its tones, its depth, its combinations and the way it is so, so emotive for us humans. I lived in East London and walked around the Olympic park with my baby daughter each day. Being separated from the daily grind of office life I began to notice the seasons more and the changing landscape. I started collecting plant materials and began making small dye pots during nap times, using soy milk as a binder to fix the colours to swatches of fabric. As soon as I started it was a passion that grew and grew. A few years later I moved to Kent, left my job and chose to pursue botanical dyeing as a career.



HOW DOES SEASONALITY RELATE TO NATURAL DYEING?


Seasonality is everything to a natural dyer. It’s our source of inspiration and ingredients. We are constantly on the look out for what is coming into season along with what is about to go over. Right now on my allotment, the dyers chamomile is going over so it’s time to harvest any remaining flowers and leave a few heads for next years seed. The Hopi sunflowers are setting seed so they can soon be collected for dyeing. Hips and haws are fruiting in hedgerows along the creek so these can soon be harvested for pale apricot shades. There is always something new to look out for.





HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF WORKING SEASONALLY AND SUSTAINABLY MAKE YOU FEEL?


I feel more grounded, more connected, more authentic.




IS THERE A PART OF THE PROCESS YOU ENJOY THE MOST, IS THERE A MOMENT THAT DEFINES IT FOR YOU?


Collecting ingredients is always the most relevant part for me. The link to nature, with the seasons and with my local landscape. Before I started dyeing, I’d walk in nature often (I have a dog), and it would always be restorative. Now however I feel I have a relationship with the landscape. A connection. I spot hawthorn blossom early in the year, and make a mental note that there will be berries appearing in autumn. I see sloes along the creek and note when they have a good fruiting year. The cyclical nature of my work never gets tiresome - there is always something to look forward to in each season. Seeing the results from a new dye pot is thrilling. You can never be certain how it will turn out. Everything from the time of year, the water used, the temperature, the provenance of the plant…every factor can affect your results. Nature often wants to offer beige and peach tones, so when something unexpected happens it’s always exciting…it’s like trying a new recipe from veg you’ve grown or opening a kiln after weeks of work.



WHAT KIND OF PRODUCE ARE YOU DRAWN TO USE FOR YOUR DYES, HAS THIS SHIFTED OVER TIME AND EXPERIENCE?


I mostly like to experiment with ingredients that are abundant in my local landscape. I’ll try anything once, so long as I recognise the plant and there is plenty to harvest, making sure that most is left for wildlife. I have tried and tested favourites that I use all the time - alder cones gathered in winter provide rich golds, avocados collected weekly from a local cafe offer up warm rose shades. Native ‘weed’ weld gives bright acid yellows and warm olive greens.



WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING?


Perhaps what is most important is what I’m NOT doing. The dyeing process is the most toxic aspect of the global fashion industry. Wastewater is often dumped directly into rivers and streams due to poor enforcement in producer countries such as Bangladesh. This waste contains carcinogenic chemicals, synthetic dyes and heavy metals. Pollution to rivers is catastrophic to wildlife and devastating to local drinking water supplies. Using plant dyes is different. My waste water is recycled in the garden and allotment. Waste plant pulp is composted which in turn feeds the soil. Regeneration not destruction.


 

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