The dogwood dyer grows dye plants within streetside planters in central Brooklyn as well as forages for wild plants with color potential in surrounding rural environments like upstate New York. Everything from bark, to berries, to leaves & roots may be used to create a diversity of rich & living colors.
Water is added to the plant materials to create an extraction of color & the fibers are separately pretreated with a natural substance called a mordant to ensure adequate color adhesion & subsequent lightfastness throughout the lifetime of the garment.
To reduce energy input, many colors are achieved through patience & time without the additional application of heat from a stove or burner. Heat can speed up color extraction from plants but also tends to make many natural dyes dull or muddy.
Every individual plant imparts a unique & unrepeatable color or shade depending on soil, sun, rain, harvest time, & processing speed.
Natural dyeing requires the use of many gallons of water, a precious and finite resource. The dogwood dyer recycles 80% of her dye and rinse water back into the Brooklyn planters where her urban plants are grown.