Fall 2016 Natural Dye Series: Boreal Color

A full and happy life includes a cast of wonderful, interesting people to help lend perspective and alternate experiences to complement our own routines of existence.  I can honestly say, Megan Samms is one of those people for me.   Her chosen life path is a true inspiration - a reflection of commitment to her principles of kindness, sustainable living, skilled craft, and connection to environment.  We had the good fortune to connect via Instagram in 2015 and I’m excited to introduce her as the featured natural dyer for the Fall Natural Dye Series.  

For 6 months out of the year, Megan lives alone in the Boreal Forest in northern Alberta, Canada keeping watch in a fire tower.  The Boreal forest is the world’s largest Biome - spanning three continents and containing 30% of the worlds forest.  It is one of the world’s largest remaining pristine wildernesses.  During Megan’s Summers there, she practices her numerous talents, including spinning, weaving, dying, and beekeeping.

Her deep connection with her environment colors her work as a fiber artist.  Oftentimes, a walk in the bush around her Summer home drives her color selection.  Like me, she focuses exclusively on natural fibers as the base for her own spinning and weaving projects.  I have a huge amount of admiration for not only her work, but for the beautiful perspective on life she shares with me in our correspondence. Her perspective and experience in life yields a unique palette that is reflection of a true individual - a woman in tune with her environment and willing to forge a different path for herself stay connected with her driving principles.

In her words:

I am deeply moved by the uncomplicated, honest and time honoured tasks of life. Whether it’s cultivating my garden, looking for and reporting wildfires in the boreal forest, tending to honeybees, foraging for medicines and colour, weaving, dyeing, spinning or knitting, I am, each time, brought back to the beauty in such simple but necessary acts of existence.

The practice and long lasting results of handcraft, hardwork, fibre and plant dyes come together as a functional art grounded in usefulness, shelter, beauty and tradition. These are concepts I aim to integrate in my textile work.

For our collaboration, she brings bright colors to my otherwise neutral palette.  In addition to extracts, her colors are produced using fresh foraged dyestuff from the natural environment around her Summer lodging.  Everything is dyed, rinsed, and soaked in rainwater, off grid in the Boreal forest of Northern Alberta Canada.   As a result, each skein is one of a kind - the product of a season in time.

Color ways & dye stuff are as follows:

Gold:  Cutch, Osage Orange, Goldenrod

Blue: Indigo

Red:  Madder, Lac

Purple: Cutch, Iron, Logwood, Cochineal

For the base fiber, I hand spun mostly Finn, but also included some soft grey Shetland from Maine in fingering weight.  All of the fiber used comes from small North American farms.  Support of small farms and their flocks as well as encouraging breed specific knowledge is integral to my mission.  Combined with Megan’s small batch, sustainable dye harvesting and processing - we hope to offer a product that is in balance with the environment and in support of small farms and businesses.

Please check out Megan’s website and Instagram for more information about her and her process.  She loves collaborations and welcomes commissions, so don’t hesitate to ask!

Shop the Series: