Volume 15 Issue 2 A Journal Dedicated to Natural Dyes Spring 2010
<i>Traces in Time</i>, cut-out on rice paper
Traces in Time.
Indigo, sumi ink, silk, stitching with indigo dyed thread, shibori,
cut-out on rice paper.
Photograph Copyright by
Akemi Nakano Cohn


First production natural dye house, Noon Design Studio
By Jane Palmer

I was always the kid who wanted to make everything from scratch. For example, I started making hairspray from lemon juice and sugar water, and soap from olive oil when I was in high school. Actually, I wished I could press the olives myself. I couldn't understand things that I couldn't make on my own, or from my own materials.

I began to take the formal textile path in college, at Appalachian State University, in North Carolina. I love this community because what is now considered "green" is a part of everyday life there. People collect their own rainwater, have passive solar water heaters, grow their own food, and distill their own whisky. Perhaps it is the isolation of the mountain communities, with their long history of marginalization, rather than environmental motivation that causes people to generate their own sustainable living methods. Whatever the origin of this way of life, I found it inspirational, and it provides the foundation of my current natural dye business.

After leaving North Carolina, I attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and received an MFA in fiber and conceptual textile arts in 2001. It was there that I met my future business partner, Marianne Fairbanks. Together we started an accessories company in 2002, and traveled across the country seeking organic and eco-friendly textiles. Finding very little available, and having extensive experience in textiles, we decided to create our own, and began experimenting with natural dyes. We had little to go on at first, beyond our own failures and successes, but over the next six or seven years, we became fairly knowledgeable, perhaps even somewhat expert. When, at the end of last year, we decided to take separate paths, I knew that my passion was for working with natural dyes in the dyeing of textiles.

Dye sample book
Dye sample book
Photograph Copyright by Jane Palmer

I have opened the dye house to other designers and, because of positive press coverage, have been fortunate to attract other artists for both apparel and home goods. I dye custom and stock colors, yardage, as well as finished goods. Most production takes about eight days, because I keep a seven-day mordanting cycle. While this may surprise those designers used to twenty-four-hour cycles with chemical dyes, I see part of my work to be educating others about the business of "slow textiles" and telling my clients about the materials used to dye their textiles. It is easier to envisage a pomegranate, for example, than to picture CMYK percentage values. It is my hope that in this way, my clients will come to believe in natural dyes—understanding more fully how their products can be made something beautiful.

I will be moving the dye shop to Los Angeles at the end of May. Please feel free to contact me with any questions at jane@noondesignstudio.com or 773-844-1163.