earth pigments
earth pigments

Through flower petals, minerals, and soil, Kornelia explores the diversity and complexity of natural fabric dyeing. Her work exceeds beyond finding the right shade and shifts towards learning and accepting what is essential and human to us.

When did you start dyeing naturally and what fascinates you about it?

I got into dyeing with natural sources about five years ago, when I was making a lot of crocheted clothing. The amount of waste that was piling up in my atelier, motivated me to re-evaluate the material I work with. I didn’t like the idea of creating more and more waste, so I started looking for ways how to minimize the negative impact I had on the environment. Ironically I discovered natural dyes after arriving on a volcanic island, where botanical resources were very limited. And as it is often a case, when a person does not have many choices, it forces him to look for other ways and be creative, which leads him to find material he wouldn’t normally think of. And so I have combined the need to make the maximum use of the potential of the material with artistic creation.

For me, colors obtained from natural sources are endless fascination. There are so many choices, all we need to do is to carefully examine our surroundings. As you dive deeper into the world of natural dyes, the more you realize one life is just not enough to explore it all. 

All of your colors come straight from nature. How does this process look like?

The process of dying is fairly long and requires patience. Not a single step should be speeded up or left out as this would lead to a poorer quality of the final product. The process also depends on what material I work with. Before the actual dyeing, there is a long process of preparation of fabrics, in order for it to accept the dye – to form a bond that will be inseparable even after washing. In the case of the botanical/organic sources, the material is first boiled, then strained, and only then with the help of the heat, the color is able to penetrate the fibers. There are many dyeing techniques and each one is used for something different. A variety of techniques have been developed in different cultures around the world, that have captured and still define the area. For example, a traditional Japanese shibori, with which one can create regular patterns on fabric, most often using already well-known indigo.

How do you obtain pigments from inorganic sources, such as minerals and soil? What are their benefits?  

With inorganic/mineral sources, it is a bit more complicated and longer, with more complex procedures needed since the heat is not enough to stabilize the color in the fiber. The stone is first crushed into the tiniest particles, then sifted to separate the dust from larger fragments and then mixed with a binder to form a consistency suitable for painting. The most important thing is to choose a suitable binder, which also determines the purpose of the paint. When it comes to printed graphics, it is necessary to create a thicker consistency so that every detail is visible. In the case of using watercolor paints, the consistency is more fluid. 

The history of natural dyeing- the use of pigments for various purposes goes back to the very beginning of human existence, where man observed animals and then repeated their behavior, mostly before or after catching prey. He gradually mastered these customs, which he developed in all possible directions – in the form of rituals, funeral ceremonies, healing ceremonies, etc.

You traveled quite a bit. How has it impacted your work?

I have been drawn to traveling since I was a child. I used to flip through travel magazines and imagining how I would go everywhere. Getting to know other cultures and discovering new places and people is probably a necessary part of life. And what inspires me the most on the road? It is a combination of new stimuli, different people, and their habits, a diversity of nature that is constantly changing. I am fascinated by deserted and remote kind of places that fill you with special a kind of peace, where one can completely disconnect from everything. The architecture of old towns is also a great inspiration, as their history and certain atmosphere take you through time. Most of all, however, I like places that remind me how small we really are and help me leave my own little world, at least for a while and look at it with different eyes.

As you describe, natural dyeing is a laborious and lengthy process, yet you still choose to do it. Why? 

Natural dyeing is definitely a very lengthy process, but honestly, I can’t imagine not doing it. Although it involves some steps, as in almost every job, that I don’t like and are physically demanding, that are many other steps that cause me joy. Everyday contact with nature and being able to produce a shade that I have been working on for weeks at a time, gives me an indescribable feeling. I am very, very grateful that something like this has come my way because working with nature has taught me a lot. It helped me to tune in to the natural cycle of life, not to push things, not to rush anywhere, because in the end, it doesn’t lead to anything good.

How do you perceive crafts? Why is it important to slow down?

Manual work has incalculable value for me, whatever it concerns. It requires time, experience, and a piece of oneself that is put into it. We should not look only at the result, as it goes so much deeper. The time we currently live in is strange. Everything is in a hurry and the real value of things remains forgotten. People are used to getting anything they want, whenever they want it for and they don’t think much about what it all entails. If one thing goes wrong, we buy another and no one cares about the waste it produces. We are facing unstoppable consumption from every side, and it seems like the only priority is to earn as much as possible, in the shortest possible time. We have exchanged real values for the superficial ones.

On the other hand, I can see there is a shift coming when people fed up with this fast life are trying to do better, live according to the principles of nature, and change their footprint from negative to rather positive. We each have a choice of how we use our potential and our stay here, on this planet, and I am extremely pleased with every single person who is aware of this and has a desire to change their surroundings for the better.

Photos: kornelialo

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