Graham Keegan, L.A.-based natural dyer and textile artist, is setting out on a tour across the United States to spread the good word about the magic of Indigo. From May to June 2018, Graham will be stopping in the following cities across the United States to circulate indigo seeds, give away indigo seedlings, and teach indigo dyeing workshops:
Thursday, May 17: Weaving Southwest, Arroyo Seco, NM
Saturday, May 19: Marfa TX: El Cosmico, RESERVATION COMING SOON
Monday, May 21: Austin TX: Ft. Lonesome
Thursday, May 24: Florence, AL: RESERVE THROUGH Idyllwilde 6:00-8:00PM
Thursday, May 31: Wollam Gardens, Jeffersonton. VA 5:00-9:00 PM
Saturday, June 2: Art In The Age, Philadelphia PA 3:00-5:00 PM (Cocktail Included)
Thursday, June 7: Tamworth, NH : Tamworth Distilling : 5:00-7:00PM
Sunday, June 10: Burlington VT : Stonecutter Spirits, 3:00-5:00PM
Along his route, Graham will share indigo plants and dye knowledge with anyone that wants to begin their indigo cultivation and/or dye journey. His trip is a special opportunity for folks in the cities listed above to get hands-on experience with an indigo dye expert, which is often hard to find in many cities in the United States. You can learn more about his trip and sign up directly for a workshop via his indigo tour website.
At Weaving Southwest, we couldn’t be more excited about hosting Graham on Thursday, May 17 as he makes his way across the southern tier of the United States and heads up to Vermont. There is a rich history of indigo dyeing in the Navajo, Chimayo, Mexican, and Southwest Contemporary weaving traditions that are so important to our region. It is always special to host an educator that can contribute to our knowledge of indigo and natural dyeing. The opportunity to participate in that sort of cultural exchange doesn’t come along very often. We would love you to take a dye workshop with Graham, pick up some seeds or seedlings, or just come to shoot the breeze.
It is also not lost on us that there is a broader cultural significance to Graham’s journey. Living in times of disconnection and polarization, it has never been more important for us to engage in experiences that empower us to make things with our hands, connect us with one another, and build our knowledge of the environment that surrounds us. Art and craft has always held the special ability to build fellowship between small groups of artisans and provide the space to reflect on our connection to the natural world. In this moment, there seems an urgent need for artists and art educators to be the imaginative builders of spaces that foster conversation, skill-sharing, and knowledge of the natural world across social, economic, and ecological divides. Viewed through that broader perspective, Graham’s journey has this special distinction of providing the space to bring forth a blue wave of new indigo dyers and cultivators across the country. We cannot think of many things more beautiful that uniting people living in very different places across the country through a common connection to indigo, a natural dye plant that has retained a deep cultural significance to many cultures throughout the world.
In advance of Graham’s visit, he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his natural dye journey and his trip. We hope you enjoy the interview!
Weaving Southwest: How did you get started natural dyeing?
Graham Keegan: Slowly, and with a lot of failures! But I really I started to explore natural dyeing in earnest when I moved to Los Angeles in 2009. At the time I was reeling from the transition from Vermont living to LA living and felt desperate to spend as much time with as many plants as possible. I had been working as a screen print designer and loved the interaction of print and fabric. I’ve always had an interest in doing things as “from scratch” as possible, so I decided to try to grow my own colors and try different ways of getting them on cloth. I was excited by the potential of being able to cultivate almost any plant in the Southern California Mediterranean climate! I started growing dye plants in containers in my apartment and borrowing land from friends who had places to put plants in the ground. As each plant would mature, I researched ways to use it. Once I got comfortable with some of the basics of natural dyeing, I began to explore the local plants in my neighborhood that grow wild : Peruvian pepper (Schinus molle), Tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) and Eucalyptus resinifera. I continue to be intrigued by the infinite possibilities under the umbrella of Natural Dyeing.
WS: Why has natural dyeing been an important skill for you to know while living in the 21st century?
GK: I appreciate primary interactions with the environment! I gain a sense of curiosity, validation and contentment from working with my hands, tending to plants, boiling liquids and discovering “new” processes. These interactions with ingredients in their most basic forms are very grounding and the “work” of natural dyeing actually feels more like a healthy physical experience. The real treat of living in the 21st century is the fact that we have easy access to millenia of collected, recorded research into methods and materials in the form of books, online media and oral history.
WS:You put such an emphasis on your role as a natural dye educator and making natural dyeing a more accessible practice. Why is making natural dye knowledge more accessible important to you?
GK: I honestly just enjoy working through problems and sharing my solutions. There are so many ways to work with natural dyes and sometimes the information out there is incomplete, opaque or under-examined. Being an educator gives my own work a bit of a sense of purpose: I enjoy guiding others through the challenges that I have had the opportunities to overcome myself!
WS: You are traveling across the country—much like a modern day Johnny Appleseed—educating people on indigo dyeing and providing indigo seeds and seedlings. What inspired you to take this journey at this moment?
GK: I’d love to be able to speak to as may people as I can about the possibilities of natural dyes! In terms of this ‘cultural moment’ I really do believe that it is valuable to encourage people to engage with more holistic processes, whatever they may be! I think everyone can benefit from getting their hands in the ground and tending to a life form!
WS: Why did you choose indigo as the natural dye plant to share with folks across the country?
GK: I think working with indigo, from seed to dye, is literally one of the more magical experiences I’ve ever had. The process of extracting the color from the leaves and making it adhere to fabric involves farming, fire, cauldrons, fermentation and color transformation. I’ve found few experiences more gratifying than growing a color and putting it onto a piece of fabric that I give to someone I love. It feels like a primal way of showing respect and adorning those we care about most.