In the Dye Studio: The Modern Natural Dyer

"to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender..."

-- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I've been deeply involved with Rebecca Solnit's book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Relishing in each page, as I try to make sense of the rabbit hole I fell into in 2013, and working towards the surface of where I stand in 2015. Solnit's work has given me words to which I have not been able to find.

One of the things I find most compelling is to embark on a journey in which I have a handful of goals, a mystery to unravel, and a gauzy sense of what the end may look like. There is a porous quality to this kind of trip. Room for possibility. There is potential to meet other artists, writers, makers, and philosophers, I wouldn't have otherwise encountered. I love to be fully immersed. Knowing this can and usually will cause a tremor, creating an expansion in how I see and how I live. Moving to California when I was 18, researching in India, and establishing A Verb for Keeping Warm have all fallen under this type of travel - now I can add writing my upcoming book, The Modern Natural Dyer, to the roster.

It had always been my dream to write a book. Sometimes I thought I would write about my work with the nomads in India, as that work was difficult. I attribute my correlation between the holy trinity of suffering, work, and reward to having been raised Catholic. Where as natural dyeing, the process of learning and practice while at times is challenging, has always been and is always intriguing and very rewarding.

In Spring 2013, I received the opportunity to present a book proposal to the Abrams publishing board under the guidance of my editor, Melanie Falick. After discussing a few ideas, Melanie encouraged me to focus on my work as a natural dyer. I gathered a collection of naturally dyed yarn and fabric and shipped it to New York, with the hope that by sending actual materials, the tactile nature of the work would help guide the written proposal through the process, to achieve the goal of Abrams accepting my proposal. It worked. I signed my book contract in July 2013 and from there everything began to feel like a whirlwind.

Things started out simply enough, make an outline, start at the top, and begin to fill out the outline. That said, soon enough, as the outline became more complete, writing my book, and wanting to include a number of topics, writing quickly became a game similar to sudoku, a puzzle that I would think about day and night, searching for how all of the information could fit together. My mind got into the rhythm of focusing very intently on the details, and then expanding, to see how it would fit into the whole, and to think about all of the ways of how it could affect the text in its entirety. It didn't take long for me to be fully intertwined with the manuscript.

It became as important to decide what would go into the book as what would be left out of the book. Something I adore about natural dyeing is that the more I learn, I very nearly realize the less I know. Actually, it is not the less I know, rather, it is the more I get to explore about the process. Then there is the simple fact that there really is about a thousand ways to teach something, all of which may land at a very similar conclusion. Though, the question became - what is the most effective path, and why? And in this myriad of choices and possibilities, it became very important to decide on a path, and stick to it, in order to keep the information as streamlined as possible, and for the book to be accessible to the largest amount of people. As painful as it sometimes was to have to leave something out - or abbreviate it further than I wished. That said, there is so much in this book. And all those bits that were left out - who knows, perhaps those are further experiments, future essays, or maybe even books. 

Over the course of the next few weeks, leading up to the release of my book, I will present different parts of my book on the Verb blog, and give you the inside scoop as to why I chose to include certain information. It will be a brief overview of the sections. Once the book is released, and you have the ability to hold it in your hands, we will take a closer look - complete with a 2016 natural-dye-a-long. In the case, that you too, would like to surrender to the natural dyeing process and see what the natural world of color may hold in store for you.

Natural dyeing has provided a basis for my business and for my life. It is my main practice of art. It is a lens as to how I view the world. It was mind boggling then, and still remains so, that I have been given the opportunity to write about and work within something I feel so passionate about. I feel so grateful to my family, co-workers, customers, and my editor, Melanie, for being able to be so lost in something I love so much.

It is so exciting to go from being so intent and concentrated in my work, to coming out of that space, and having an object to share with you. Moreover, an object that you can take, read, and keep expanding upon. It is so exciting to imagine where you might take this work and what will be added to the field of natural dyeing.


You can pre-order The Modern Natural Dyer here.