I grew up in Melbourne in the 60's and 70's, in the Warrandyte area which is situated on the Yarra River. Lots of Eucalypt forests and freedom to wander and explore. When I was mid teenage my family had a sea change move to coastal Queensland; from bush to beach.
Yes, I think all of these affected me. Being surrounded by natural bushland was really positive for me as a child. This location, my mum's appreciation of natural beauty, and my dad's interest in gardening all influenced the way I see the world. Despite living away from this area for so long, it still feels like home when I visit.
My grandparents lived close to the city and even though they were on a suburban block they lived quite a self-sufficient lifestyle. My Gran sewed clothing, the garden was overflowing with fruit trees and vegetables, items were reused, mended, upcycled, composted. I think these helped shape a respect for our natural world and our environment. Connection to the earth through nature and nurture!
I've always been interested or involved in arts and crafts in some form, photography was my first creative pursuit. I was influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer well known for his ability to capture 'the decisive moment', a term he coined. He was patient and had a great attention to framing and composition which inspires my own work.
I began experimenting with eucalypts and dyeing fabric in the latter part of 2013, and this has progressed into creating the silk scarves and nuno-felt wraps, and some smaller sidelines.
Can you tell me a little about the process of creating your beautiful scarves?
Patience and curiosity are central to my process. It begins with the collection of leaves, mainly windfall leaves gathered when walking. I do have some favourite local gum trees I visit. After storms, there's always fresh leaves scattered. Older leaves I usually soak in water first to make them supple again, then lay them out on damp silk or wool.
This fabric is rolled around a stick and tied tightly as a bundle which is then heated in a large pot. I use two different methods to heat the bundle; immersion - where the fabric is warmed in tannin rich water (gum leaves, bark and gumnuts and maybe some rusty nails from the shed), or steamed. The heat allows the natural dyes from the leaves to transfer onto the silk/wool as a contact print, or ecoprint. I also use natural dyes made from avocado skins and seeds, various local flora, onion skins, nuts and mulberries. After opening the dye bundles, I then get to photograph the scarves as well!
Most people are really interested in the process, they're surprised that the leaf itself gives the dye, pleased that it is a natural non-toxic process, and they especially like the range of colours and simple beauty of the scarves.
What does it mean to you?
I love that I can work from home, spend time in nature, create unique wearable art, and be surprised regularly by the results.
Including my family and friends in this home based business has been a wonderful extension; discussing ideas around the dinner table, and allowing me to honour the essence of a lifestyle my parents and grandparents nurtured.
I look forward to deepening my understanding of natural dyeing and integrating new learning and textiles. Working with natural dyes is a lovely combination of unpredictability, (im)perfection and daily inspiration. For me, there's a fair amount of emotion and shared experience woven through this process. These memories form an important core of knowledge and grounding.
Have you got some other ideas you can share with us?
I have many ideas to explore, and that's the lovely thing… there is no end to creativity. I'm interested in exploring the webs woven through our lives, looking at the interconnectedness of life, and the invisible threads that hold us together.
Where can people find you?
I have a website: www.annaisilk.com.au
Facebook: Annai Silk