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Irish artist Marie Varley searches the country for the very best in Irish design to bring to you here on HeadStuff. This week she spoke with Kathryn Davey.
Kathryn Davey is a self-taught designer and natural dyer living in Dublin. She works with materials sourced and made in Ireland, in particular premium Irish linen and wool. Having started working with textiles and natural dyes whist living in Northern California, she moved to Dublin two years ago and has been imparting her vast knowledge of dying to students of her popular workshops. This week I discuss her processes, workshops and what’s coming next…
How did you first become interested in working with textiles?
I have always been drawn to the beauty, simplicity and texture of natural fibres. I love the feel, the drape and the flow of a fabric woven with care and consideration. I started making dolls and soft toys for my daughters when they were little, and so began my love affair with Linen. The texture, the life, the subtle beauty drew me in; it can transform a product, giving it more life and beauty than other fabrics. It also gets softer and more beautiful as it ages which greatly appeals to me.
Can you tell us about the tradition and processes of Indigo and Shibori?
Indigo refers to both a plant and the dyestuff that comes from it which has been used for centuries to dye fabric blue. There are more than fifty different species of plants that produce Indigo. The strong blue dye that we use today can be obtained by setting the leaves in a vat of water and allowing them to ferment over many stages to breakdown the leaves and extract the pigment. Shibori is a Japanese term for techniques of creating patterns in your dyed cloth by binding, stitching, folding, twisting and compressing. In Japan, the earliest known example of cloth dyed with Shibori technique dates back to the 8th Century where Indigo was the main dye used.
The sustainability of the materials you use seem to be very important to your practice. Do you see a shift in consumerism to a more ethical option?
There does seems to be a slow shift or movement towards buying locally made goods, supporting small businesses and making more ethical choices as a consumer. However there is still a long way to go before it’s at the forefront of consumerism.
You now run a series of wonderful workshops from Indigo & Shibori to Block Printing. Can you tell me about what these workshops involve?
At the moment I offer three different workshops with a new one to be added in the next few months. There’s the Indigo & Shiboiri workshop, an introduction to natural dyes and our Block Printing class which uses traditional Indian wooden blocks to print on fabric. I’ll be adding an eco-printing workshop to the calendar soon. The workshops are spaced over a 5 hour period, beginning with some practical information and then the rest of the time is spent with hands-on learning.The participants learn about what is involved, practice various methods themselves and then make as many things as they have the time for! Students always leave with at least one completed item, lots of samples and a big smile on their faces!
In terms of your own process when making your textile pieces, is there a lot of planning involved in the design or does chance play a part in the finished piece?
There is definitely a bit of both involved, when working with natural dyes there is always an element of unpredictability. You can do your best to control the outcome and achieve specific results but for me part of the beauty of working with natural materials is surrendering the process and the outcome.
How do you find working in Dublin as a creative business?
I spent quite a few years living in California and moved back to Dublin two years ago. At first it was quite hard to find the resources that were so readily available in the States, but over time I have figured out where to get my materials from. Now I am really enjoying working here, there seems to be a lot of interest and support available for creative businesses. I recently participated in “Showcase” at the RDS and exhibited in the Design Ireland section. It was encouraging and inspiring to see so many Irish makers and small business owners together under one roof. The standard of design along with the sense of community within the creative industry left me feeling quite hopeful!
What is next for you – any exciting plans on the horizon?
It is still in the initial stages of development but I am collaborating with a wonderful Irish designer to bring some limited edition pieces to select retailers in Dublin and America. I hope to add a small line of naturally dyed women’s clothing to my range at some point in the future, its still a way off but its definitely something I would like explore.
Natural Dye Workshop on April 8th
Blockprinting workshop on May 6th
Katryn is also teaching two workshops in the south of France June 24-25th.
Outside of these dates she can also be contacted about private workshops. You can find more information on Kathryn’s upcoming workshops here or email her for more information and pricing here. You can also follow Kathryn on Facebook and Instagram.