BY AVIVA LEIGH
Creating considerate cloth
I am passionate about creating textiles that embody the ethos of the slow movement. I am inspired by the rich cultural diversity and heritage of world textiles and I honor artisan skills and interpret these methods and techniques in my work.
My goal is to create an awareness of the provenance of my work and the sustainable processes that I use. Thus, I launched slowstuff, a creative enterprise that encompasses designing, making and teaching.
Why ‘slow’? In 2005 I read Carl Honore’s book In Praise of Slow and began to question my hectic lifestyle. I believe the Slow Movement offers an alternative to “fast consumerism” and my own “Slow Making Manifesto” considers provenance, sustainability, sharing and creativity. With that philosophy in mind, I left an unfulfilling job in corporate training and embarked on a creative learning journey that would lead me with an honors degree in textile design. Now I design and create my own line of contemporary textiles that celebrate traditional artisan skills that encompass natural dyeing, weaving and felt making.
In creating my textiles, I use yarn from locally reared alpacas and British wool and I support local suppliers as much as possible. Sometimes it’s necessary to source materials from further afield and in these cases, I look for sustainable alternatives with fair trade credentials. This consideration of sustainability is an integral part of my work and it is as important as the design and final outcome.
In my work with natural dyes, some of which are grown less than twenty miles from my home in Norfolk in East England, I endeavor to connect to the original source of my raw materials wherever possible. I work closely with Woad-Inc, the only large-scale producer of woad in Britain, and I am involved in the entire process of creating blue color from green leaves. This process includes planting the seeds to processing the indigo pigment to finally hand-dyeing fiber and textiles.
When I make my dyes, I use freecycled equipment and fittings in my studio and outdoor dye area, I also recycle much of the water and natural raw materials used in dyeing, implementing a ‘loop’ system, whereby spent dyestuff can be composted, and exhausted dye vats can be used in paper making. Although I work with collected rainwater for some of my dyeing, I look forward to a fine English summer for developing a new dye garden and have plans to attempt solar dyeing and printing.
Engaging with others through collaboration and sharing skills is very rewarding – creativity should be an open dialogue, not time spent working in isolation that shields skills, connections and ‘know-how’. Thus it’s important to share with others the philosophy behind my work and I use 21st century technology—actively participating in online forums, using social media venues to share information and make connections with people as well as writing about my work and sharing my techniques with others. (See Aviva’s article “Painted Warp,” which appeared last September in Hand/Eye http://handeyemagazine.com/content/painted-warp).
I enjoy making direct contact with others who choose this slow credo. My belief is that we share common values, knowing where something comes from, who has made it and how it has been made adds value to an item—whether it’s a loaf of artisan bread or a handwoven scarf. My beliefs are closely reflected in what Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life…”
Join Aviva on her journey as she develops idea ideas at www.slowstuff.co.uk