Two weeks ago, our topic was Earth Day. Last week it was Fashion Revolution Week.
This week, if we put them together, what do we get (bipitee bopitee boop)? Eco fashion!
Local artist, Mindi Rockwell (she marketed her ceramics under Muddy Mindi, but now all her works are under Bare Mountain Studio) dyes cloth and clothing with natural dyes and uses natural materials to print patterns on the dyed cloth.
One of my favorite questions to ask artists and artisans is how they started and what keeps them inspired. As a mother myself, I especially appreciate answers relating to children.
Mindi got started with natural dyes when she made natural soap for her son’s sensitive skin and used indigo to add color to the sudsy bars. Not getting the shade she wanted, Mindi started doing some research.
While googling the soap color issue, she came across techniques for eco printing on fabric. It caught her attention and took priority in her creative pursuits.
Mindi dyes and prints on pre-made clothing and silk scarves with tree bark, bugs, indigo, black walnut, onion skins, roots, berries, leaves and other natural materials.
Before applying dyes to the fabric, Mindi scours the cloth and applies a mordant (such as alum) to ensure the dye adheres to the fabric. The mordant process takes three baths, a wash and at least a full day.
Then Mindi puts the cloth into a natural dye bath. Once it’s dyed, she applies leaves, rolls the fabric and steams it. If the leaves contain enough tannin they will cause the dye to discharge from the area, leaving leaf prints on the fabric.
While this might sound simple, I learned it isn’t by listening to Mindi explain the process. The type of mordant she uses depends on the fabric, and dyes react differently to different types of fabric and mordants.
The leaves or berries she uses to print patterns can also react differently to all of the above. Mindi said she had good luck using eucalyptus, sumac, rose and berry leaves.
Additionally, the dyeing environment can have an impact — water and metal pots can both change the reactions of the above factors. Fabric content also changes the dyeing results.
“It’s a lot of chemistry. I’m still figuring it out,” Mindi said.
“One piece of clothing goes through a week’s process,” Mindi said. So she dyes in batches of nine or 10 items.
She keeps chemicals away from her art, because she doesn’t want to pollute her son’s environment. Mindi said she and her son forage for leaves and dyeing materials together.
“I just never thought it would take off,” Mindi said.
When she started eco printing she took 10 printed shirts to sell in her pottery booth at Cheat Fest. Those shirts sold within the first hour — she will be there again this year with lots more eco printed clothing.
Her work was recently accepted into Tamarack. She is adding men’s clothing this year and plans to start dyeing children’s clothing as well.
I feel my description hasn’t quite done Mindi’s eco printing justice. I highly recommend checking out the beautiful garments colored with nature’s dyes and patterns on social media, under Bare Mountain Studio (her Instagram feed is lovely).
Locally dyed, eco-friendly, sustainable clothing made by a creative woman inspired by motherhood; I’m glad that our community recognized how special this is, and demand for Bare Mountain Studio products is rising.