COLORANT JOURNAL

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Liz Spencer, The Dogwood Dyer, prepares an indigo vat for COLORANT spring goods.

Indigo has been harvested for thousands of years for its rare and natural blue. The leaves of the plant are first fermented then boiled to a reduction that creates a “white bath”. When material is submerged then lifted in the air, it first appears to be a bright yellow then magically turns blue as it oxidizes. Unlike other dyes in which color intensity can be somewhat controlled by soaking time, Indigo differs in that it must be re-dipped repeatedly to achieve deep tones.

What is your favorite color?
This is a tough one…considering that my work demands an appreciation for and understanding of many colors, but I love the aqua blue that results from fresh leaf indigo dyeing on silk. It’s like a Carribean light teal blue or a southwest turquoise stone. I’ve never been able to achieve this color with any other process or plant, so it’s very special!

Where did your love for natural dyeing begin?
I began by collaborating with a community garden called Cordwainers Garden in London at an allotment next to my Grad School (The London College of Fashion) in Hackney, East London. Space to garden, as in many urban areas, is little to be had there and as a result, very much cherished, so I was lucky to have ample space to explore the process of exclusively growing dye plants. As a natural dyer that actually grows my own plants for dyeing, I am able to see the process from seed to cloth and this holistic approach keeps my research hungry mind and creative spirit continually fulfilled. Gardening and harvesting is immensely gratifying, and distinctly different from dyeing with only imported powdered extracts. This full life cycle aspect of my introduction to natural dyes has generally keep me coming back to the practice.

What’s your favorite scent?
Jasmine, Magnolia, and Gardenia are all favorites of mine


Where do you love / want to travel?
I grew up moving around the US quite a bit (The Carolinas, New England, The Pacific Northwest) , and have lived and traveled a good deal in Western Europe. Outside of a trip to Japan and Honduras, I haven’t seen much of Asia or Central and South America, where some of the richest and most complex natural dye traditions have developed.  I would love to spend a year in India, especially Jaipur.

Tell us a funny story about your childhood.
I’ve heard this one many times from my parents…
In first grade my parents were called in for a teacher conference concerning my behavior in class. My teacher was having trouble keeping me from distracting my peers from their work. She wanted to see if they could help by reminding me the importance of letting my desk mates finish their work before engaging them in conversation. When they sat me down to discuss my overly gregarious behavior, I defended myself by saying that “talking is my hobby!”. Fast forward 25 years,  now I am an educator at The New School and I teach workshops independently, and I think that my eagerness to talk to those around me serves me and others well. 
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Emma Grady, Fashion Journalist, wears the Colorant Cashmere hoodie with Indigo and Oak gall dyed stripes.
 

Oak Gall or “Oak Apples” are a tannin-rich growth on oak trees produced by the burrowing of the wasp Cynips gallae tinctoriae, used as a dye and a mordant. Oak galls have been used in the production of ink since at least the time of the Roman Empire. From the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century iron gall ink was the main medium used for writing in the western world.

What is your favorite color? Red. I love it for lipstick, stationary, and clothing. It is especially striking when paired with silk. I have a few notable pieces, including a blouse, camisole, and dress, made with red silk and they are stand-out wardrobe staples.
 
Where did you grow up? I grew up on the coast of Maine in a tourist town, called Kennebunk–and no, I did not eat a lot of lobster growing up! I own a cool pair of red lobster stud earrings and a pair of needlepoint carpet slippers with lobsters on them though, and I have a lot of Maine pride; if you call me a MAINEiac, I’ll take it as a compliment.
 
If you had to choose one item of clothing to take with you on a deserted island?I’d opt for a DVF wrap dress made with silk jersey. It is comfortable and travels well.
 
What is your favorite vintage store in NY? Housing works. Hands down. I have found the most amazing pieces at unbelievable price points. For example, I found a suede Zac Posen dress that fits me like a glove. I never thought I would own a Zac Posen dress (at this point in my life, at least).
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Mark Drehmann, Bowmaker at Salchow & Sons wears Colorant Weld-Dyed Cashmere Scarf.

Brazilwood was first mentioned as a dye in 1321, sourced from East Indies and India. The word brazil comes from the Spanish brasa, meaning glowing embers, and the country of Brazil was named after the wood found there, not the other way round. The wood of several species of Caesalpinia trees give lovely rich reds. Most of brazilwood sold as a dye comes from Asian trees, grown in managed plantations, and is unlikely to be endangered. The species from Brazil, C. echinata, is also known as Pernambuco, and it is sometimes referred to as the music tree because its wood is used for violin bows. - from WildColours.com

What is your favorite color? My favorite color is green… just because.  Probably because i grew up in the middle of nowhere with trees everywhere, or maybe because my eyes are green-ish.

How did you get into the bow-making business? I had gone to school for music, moved to New York and then decided I didn’t want to be a musician.  I was looking for something to do, and Rachel [Mark’s Sister] was good friends with Isaac Salchow, who was looking for someone to work in his shop, and she convinced him to give me a try.  I’ve been here for 5 years now.

Tell us a bit about Salchow and Sons…William Salchow opened the business 1960.  He had been trained in a couple shops in NYC and got a Fulbright Scholarship to study bowmaking in France, which has been the center of bowmaking for 200 years.  He has trained or influenced most modern bowmakers in the US and has made bows for many of the world’s great musicians over the last 50 years.  The business is now run by his grandson Isaac Salchow.

What are the components of a typical Salchow and Son bow and how long does it take to craft each one? The materials used to make the majority of a bow are pernambuco (northern brazil), ebony (black wood from a few places around the world), and silver.  There’s also a little ivory and a brass/steel screw mechanism. The time to make a bow, if you’re not doing anything else to distract you, would be a few days.  Maybe two days if you’re working really long hours, or a week if you’re taking your time.

Mozart or Beethoven? Beethoven.  Obviously.  Ha!

Where is your favorite place to eat in NYC? On any given day, Chipotle - Chicken Burrito.  If i’m goin’ for fancy, probably an awesome pasta from Del Posto.

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