Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
We live in a plant-dominated biosphere, and yet the relevance and meaning of vegetal life, beyond its contribution to human existence, is rarely considered. This way of thinking has led us to see nature as external to ourselves, as “other,” as that mysterious realm beyond the human sphere of being. As in visual culture, plant life possesses signifiers and coded meanings in its contextual configurations. Botanical literacy offers insight into environmental, sociocultural, and historical narratives of place, as the forests and herbaceous margins of our communities speak of complex past, a parallel history of survival and adaptation. Plants and textiles, the world over, tell complicated stories of colonization, migration, industrialization, and the evolving nature of local and global systems. This presentation will discuss these ideas through the lens of my MFA thesis work (Tinctorial Cartographies), which was created in the interest of developing a regional lexicon of color. The project houses one hundred and fifty hand-woven swatches (each comprised of five fibers and three mordanting variables), which were dyed with a selection in indigenous, naturalized, and invasive plants harvested over a twelve-month period from across the province of Nova Scotia. The work is in one sense an explanation of the terroir of color, of that which was extracted directly from the local landscape, and yet it also strives to consider the contextual meanings held within the plant life growing in the province and, by extrapolation, within Canada. In my practice, working with plants becomes a point of entry in considering the complex meaning held within botanical life forms. The acts of harvesting, extracting, and dyeing become a way of exploring the difficult histories that are etched into the vegetal and mineral layers of this land.