The Kootenay School of Arts

Hello! My name is Robyn, I dye all the pieces for Abel and hope that all you encounter in this blog connects with you in many ways. We hope to inspire, but also our intention is for you to join this adventure with us! This blog post is about the Kootenay School of Arts where I learned how to use natural dyes in 2015.

I loved every minute of learning the art of natural dyes. I believe craft culture is an ancient rhythm and when we participate in any craft, whether it's plant dyes, weaving or blacksmithing, there's a rich history that connects us. The process feels like time travel. In school, we spent hours with dye pots on the stove all day, in class and hours of homework afterwards! We had to work with yards upon yards of fabric at a time. One assignment was printing 6 metres with a tiny self made lino cut stamp that was about 2" X 2"! I was inspired by the history of textiles and the art behind every book and every material. 


This was my first time dyeing with marigolds! My teacher brought fresh flowers from her garden! I was so excited and so certain these would create some kind of orange. All the dyes have incredible stories. I'll do another post sometime about the amazing history of plant dyes. These marigolds actually produced an incredible green! See yarn below! It's so fun to think back on this time. The window below, always caught my eye and the classroom was lit in the warmest glow at all times of day and weather. The light coming through this window was always casting a diffused light on all the natural dye work hanging or drying in the studio.

The light coming through also hit these glass jars full of dyes from all over the world and reflected the most beautiful colours. The classroom was huge and the building was old. I loved wandering around and reading all the old craft books:

These images of old pots, pans and yarn hanging from lines makes me so happy. I think part of why I respect craft so much is the connection to the land. When I'm outside using fire to dye natural fibres with plants, it feels like I'm returning to a wholeness, that's not just "sustainable", but free. Freedom from all the materials in our lives that don't echo the earth around us. "The history of this land influences and informs our contemporary experiences, and with this in mind, we recognize that craft practices are intrinsically tied to the past, present, and future." - Canadian Crafts Federation. "In many ways, a civilizations intangible cultural heritage is linked to its traditional forms of craftsmanship. They tell stories of lives lived, of past, of a way of being. Crafts signify the evolution of existence, they point us towards the role of rituals and traditions." -

This is the colour the fresh marigolds made! Chartreuse or Lime green? 

This Navajo Dye Chart was hanging on the wall in the textiles room, and it inspired me every single day. I'm grateful to all the cultures who have walked before me in this art form and craft. Something fascinating I learned while researching for this blog post:

"The Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) research project is an international collaboration of archaeologists, Indigenous organizations, lawyers, anthropologists, ethicists, policy makers, and others, working to explore and facilitate fair and equitable exchanges of knowledge relating to heritage. We are concerned with the theoretical, ethical, and practical implications of commodification, appropriation, and other flows of knowledge about the past, and how these may affect communities, researchers, and other stakeholders."