Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Karen Diadick Casselman


Natural dyes are front and centre in academic and craft circles. The resurgence of attention is due to several factors. One is the popularity of natural dyes among European archaeologists and chemists who rely on dyes as an analytical tool for dating textiles. Scholars worldwide have developed a deeper cultural context for early textiles by studying dye origins, horticulture, early dye technology, and ancient trade in dyestuffs. Gender is now a prominent theme, as are ethical considerations, ecology, ethnicity, and aesthetics. Dyes have surmounted the art/craft debate because their postmodern applications encompass many disciplines. From agriculture to zoology, natural dyes are an access point into history, chemistry, botany, the visual arts, material culture, fashion and clothing, consumerism, cultural tourism, and women’s studies. The papers that comprise this session demonstrate the diverse ‘lived experience’ of four dyers who have successfully combined dye practise with academic research and craft work. That their work has reached an international audience well before this present conference speaks to the validity of natural dyes as a career choice for women in art, craft, marketing, and education.