Sitting down with Katelyn and Christine to talk textiles, plants & sustainability was a no brainer! They are community gals with a love for nature, creating botanically-dyed modern heirlooms for the home through their shop: Wild Woven Collection. Their experience compliments our kitchen scrap dye guide perfectly, shedding light on the magic that is natural dyes & the beauty of the process. Shop their unique pieces here.
Tell us a bit about yourselves and your business?
We’re Christine and Katelyn, co-founders of Wild Woven Collection and natural dyers. Katelyn lives in Toronto and Christine in St Catharines. Wild Woven is an extension of who we are and the way we live – choosing natural and organic as much as possible in our decor, food, clothing and health choices, and surrounding ourselves with beauty and nature are all important to us. We sometimes joke that our pieces are us, in textile form.
What led you both to journey towards plant dyes & how did that culminate towards Wild Woven?
Christine - a few summers ago, I came across the concept of botanical dyeing as I was exploring designing clothing and sewing. I began experimenting and fell in love with the process and outcome of plant-based dyes, especially the colour that comes from avocado pits. I found it amazing that I could collect fallen walnut husks, roadside wildflowers, and kitchen waste like peels and pits and make something beautiful from them. Shortly after, Katelyn and I met and connected over natural dyeing, and decided to collaborate on a tea towel collection. Wild Woven was born out of that collaboration, and has grown very organically since, beyond what I had imagined.
Katelyn - I began my professional and creative journey as an assistant to an interior designer. While I didn’t think much about sustainability or natural colour at that time, my design education at OCADU brought everything full-circle for me as I focused my thesis on Spaces for Making, or places where designers and artists created their work. I was intrigued by the idea that one’s work could inform and later become one’s space for making. After travelling to Latvia with my family, I became interested in natural textiles and the rich tradition of flax linen production there, and began to import linen bedding. I met Christine at a pop-up I was doing on my own and we bonded over our interest in dyeing with avocado pits – after that, a collaboration was born! It has since blossomed into what Wild Woven is today and will continue to evolve and bloom as we learn more about the magic of our natural surroundings.
You create some incredible colours & patterns that are so unique to Wild Woven as a brand. What is the inspiration behind these signature pieces?
Thank you for saying that! We really do try to put our unique spin and aesthetic on what we create, working with natural colour has become an integral part of a larger goal to live a more sustainable, ethical and beautiful life informed by the magic of our natural surroundings, and bringing the outside inside. We wanted to put our own twist on natural dyeing while honouring its rich heritage as a technique that is traditional to many (if not all!) indigenous communities. Our modern take on this is to use natural pigments to make a paint, and apply colour in rudimentary and organic shapes that we are very fond of. Similar techniques are used in Japanese resist paste applications and we are mesmerised by the outcome. We also use the Japanese art of shibori, again, with our personal take on the look, creating gentle marbling.
Working with plant material is obviously at the core of your business. How do you understand your relationship with plants and what is your philosophy behind working with botanicals?
Working with natural colours has made us more in-tune with the seasons – the windows during which certain plants are abundant translates to certain colours being more available at certain times of the year. It’s also opened us up to just how incredible nature really is. There’s a rainbow of colours in so many plants, and we are constantly delighted and surprised by the outcomes. Many factors are at play, too: humidity, alkalinity or minerals in the water, and so forth. It is so interesting that botanical matter and these other substances had a pre-existing relationship and reaction to one another. We love sharing what we learn about this with others, and we’ve noticed that people really love knowing what plants were used to dye the pieces they buy. Using botanical dyes provides a way to obtain colours naturally, without the use of harmful chemicals that most of the textile manufacturing industry uses. I think that people are getting excited about botanical dyes as we all look for more sustainable, natural ways to exist in the world.
On dye days, do you have any rituals?
Katelyn - I like to settle into some long episodes of my favourite podcasts (Reply All, The Business of Home, 99 PI) or a playlist that gets me dancing around my tiny workspace – Y La Bamba or Kurt Vile are usually on a loop. I prefer to work in natural light, so I usually start first thing in the morning. I make strong coffee while I set up the space (my dining room!) and I open all of the windows because the dye pots can make it very steamy. Our process involves a lot of prep work so our Dye Days really can last a few days, to a week.
Christine - Our dye process is pretty involved and usually spreads over a few days to a week, depending on what we’re working on. A couple days before dyeing, I’ll scour, wet, and mordant the textiles so that they are all prepared. On a dye day, I set up my kitchen, laundry room and sometimes my driveway as my “work stations” because I like to spread out! Once that’s all set, I’ll put on music or a podcast (usually something like To Be Magnetic, Glow Deep, or On Being) and I get my dye pots started. Usually, I try to do all of this in the mornings on days that I don’t have much else to do because I like to just get into the flow of it and find that hours can pass without me even realizing!
As herbal & botanical practices are becoming more mainstream, ethical consumption is becoming increasingly important. Where and how do you typically gather your plant materials and how does sustainability play into that process?
We source our dye materials from many sources. Some of our larger batch dye materials are purchased from an ethical source here in Canada. They are pre-dried or ground to make the material easier to work with. Some of our favourite colours are not local, such as Cutch which is produced from the heartwood of the Acacia tree, so choosing an ethical and sustainable source is incredibly important. Some other materials are collected from food scraps – we eat a lot of avocados, and dry the pits in a sunny window sill for use later on. We save our onion skins, too. You would be surprised at how quickly these things can add up once you begin saving. Some things grow in our own gardens, like roses and hibiscus flowers, and are gathered up and frozen to use as we need to. Other plant scraps come from local restaurants and florist friends (like avocado pits or spent, wilting flowers), which we have been known to trade product for! Other plant materials, such as black walnut husks, are foraged in the Fall when they fall from trees and come from forest walks or our friends’ properties. We are always so pleasantly surprised when people come out of the woodwork saying “Hey! I have sumac for you... Can you dye with that?” A lot of experiments have been born this way, and we love connecting with our community this way. When it comes to foraging, we only take when there’s an abundance of something and follow the general rule of taking no more than 25% of what’s there. This is something we talk about in our workshops too, and we created a foraging guide to share about dye plants that can be gathered and how to do that responsibly.
Working with plants is a potent way to connect to our planet. As entrepreneurs with a business centered around natural & organic, what does living earthy mean to you?
It really feels like living in this way becomes a part of all that we do, like a theme that expands into more areas of life the more we learn. Wild Woven was born from a place of choosing organic and natural things for ourselves in our food and health choices, and then creating a business and knowing that these values would be so deeply a part of it because it would have been incongruent to do it any other way. From a business perspective, it’s important to us to create things that are sustainable, ethical and also made to last. Quality is an important element of sustainability; things shouldn’t be made with the idea of throwing them out and in that way, what we do is the opposite of “fast fashion” home decor.