Local-global: blueprint for green print

Designing a Learning for sustainability workshop for Ceres and UAL students (module for MA in Academic Practice)

Strolling edge-boundaries of research into printed textiles sustainability. Discovering and acknowledging existing paths that intersect between problem and process.

Investigation of cultural identity, miles travelled by colour, appropriation of heritage patterns, or preservation of the craft. The field narrows, earth-horizon reached, honing to natural dye-print colours. A workshop that uses dyes as a vehicle to explore, discuss, and confront the complexity of sustainability in education. A workshop that assumes natural dyes are chosen over synthetic dyes because of design potential, availability, aesthetic beauty, or historical accuracy. The dichotomy of synthetic versus natural dye, a choice referenced but not focused on.

Observant of place-learning, the workshop invites students to explore their location; to forage, investigate dye gardens, or gather bio-waste To bring dye-plants to the workshop, and link learning to habitats. Colour palettes balanced by the suggestion of imported dyes alongside the indigenous and home produced. Personal concepts and perceptions of sustainability discussed and recorded onto hand-printed maps and digitally shared on Padlet.

Using the provenance of dye-plants to research colours within the context of sustainability. Knowledge of the origins of the dye enables students to study specific economic, social and environmental concerns. The collaborative making of colour-pastes in the workshop, printing of designs, visual documentation onto maps, and ensuing discussion embeds sustainability into practice.

A plethora of dye-stuffs were introduced during the workshops:

Madder from Nature’s rainbow in Hertfordshire.

Red onion skins from the Cambridgeshire, via the Twickenham farmers market.

Saffron from Spain. 

Bio-waste colours; cleverly feeding the population, then releasing colour before composing.

Imported dyes; some companies were transparent about their origins, some less knowledgeable. I had hoped for a country, a region, a farm, or a single field. Instead I’m told Europe. Insufficient information to allow accurate judgement of human rights, water management, or land husbandry.

Ancient colonial colours; exploited skeletons of trafficked slaves.

A workshop of collecting, fabricating, discussing, and reflection. Making informed influential  sustainable textile decisions. Printed maps, fabric samples, and digital interpretations are process snapshots, not scientific rationale. Work in flux. Setting sustainability horizons, but not boundaries. Participatory sharing of knowledge, creating a symbolic collaborative-cooperative-Commons product, that maps student’s sustainability thinking. Reach expanding.

Books and articles that particularly influenced this workshop were:

4 Plants of Bondage, Limbo Plants, and Liberation Flora: Diasporic Reflections for STS in Africa and Africa in STS by Geri Augusto.

Fibershed by Rebecca Burgess.

Wild Dress by Kate Fletcher.

Doughnut Economies by Kate Raworth.

Seeing with fresh eyes by Edward Tufte.

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