I grew up in a small Western North Carolina town and first became interested in textiles in elementary school when a local weaver and dyer brought her work into the classroom to teach about traditional Appalachian textiles. She grew her own cotton and flax, spun her own yarns and dyed with indigo in a big iron pot. I loved the process of beginning with a raw material and using traditional methods to produce an end product that was both useful and beautiful.
Years later I found myself rummaging through a box of Japanese textile scraps at an antique sale in the Pacific Northwest. The fabric, with its hand spun threads, uneven selvedges, complex patterns, and deep indigo made me think of my own Appalachian culture’s traditional textiles, but I didn’t understand the techniques that has been used to produce them. At this point I was hooked and began to study all I could about how these fabrics were made and what their designs were meant to convey.
In the years since first encountering that box of fabric scraps, I have been committed to understanding traditional Chinese paste resist and Japanese katazome fabrics, and how they were produced. Through research, travel to China and Japan and a huge amount of experimentation, I have learned how to spin, dye and weave cotton grown in my own garden as well as other foraged fibers like kudzu, wisteria and hemp. I raise silk worms and spin my own silk thread. I studied how to hand cut katagami, or paper stencils, make resist paste from rice and soybeans and how to dye with indigo. I am interested in maintaining and preserving traditional techniques that, due to their complexity, are slowly declining in favor of faster mechanized production.