Galleries Visual Arts

Natural Dyes Explored at Penland Gallery

Origami Folds: Patterning Paper Yukata. Ana Lisa Hedstrom, artist

Origami Folds: Patterning Paper Yukata. Ana Lisa Hedstrom, artist

The Penland Gallery’s newest exhibition, Further Evidence: The Art of Natural Dyes, will run through July 14. The exhibition was conceived by Penland Gallery director Kathryn Gremley and curator Catharine Ellis. “Natural dyes are timely and there is a renewed global interest in and an acceptance of these environmentally sound processes,” says Ellis, a weaver and textile designer who recently co-authored the book The Art and Science of Natural Dyes with textile engineer Joy Boutrup. “The exhibition includes an international group of artists who have made a serious commitment to the use of colorants that are sourced from nature: plants and insects. Each brings skill, a distinct viewpoint and a thoughtful approach to their use of natural color in their work.”

The exhibition parallels and brings to life the book by Ellis and Boutrup with a variety of work in tapestry, paper and cloth. Many of the pieces incorporate various approaches to shaped-resist dyeing, or shibori, techniques that can create patterns after the cloth has been woven or patterns that are embedded in the individual threads before they are put on the loom. This includes a series of wall pieces by noted shibori artist Ana Lisa Hedstrom, which were made by folding paper, dyeing it indigo, then unfolding and flattening the paper to reveal geometric patterns. An installation by ink maker Tim McLaughlin displays materials and tools used for ink production, along with glass vials of ink and journal pages written in extraordinary script with a fountain pen. “Both Tim McLaughlin and Ana Lisa Hedstrom apply these natural colors to paper,” says Ellis. “As shown in this exhibition, paper is another fiber substrate to which colors are applied using different methods than to fabrics. This is a very colorful exhibition that includes a number of different approaches to the use and application of natural dyes: immersion dyeing, printing, painting, resist dyeing and ink making.”

While natural dyes are often thought of as dull, drab colors which may fade over time, the works in the exhibition show that the environmentally friendly processes and colors associated with natural dyes can remain stable. “Those who have the opportunity to see the exhibition will be surprised by the depth and breadth of the palette, variety of fibers, methods of application and artistic perspective,” says Ellis.

The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is located at Penland School of Crafts at 3135 Conley Ridge Road in Penland. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, 12–5 p.m. For more information, call 828.765.6211 or visit

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