June 4, 2020
Katie West has recently been featured on the ABC’s Gardening Australia program in the interview segment ‘My Garden Path’. Titled ‘Natural dyeing with Australian native plants’, this episode is a beautifully shot, meditative journey that follows Katie along a walk to discuss her collecting and dyeing process as well as her powerful work ‘Decolonist’.
Katie West is a Yindjibarndi woman whose artwork involves naturally dyeing textiles through a meditative process of bundling, boiling and infusing materials with plant matter. Her practice is a reflection upon her connection to country.
Along her walks, she collects fallen plant material, especially: Eucalyptus leaves and bark, which can create gold, grey or purple colours, and Acacia leaves, which can create orange or red dyes. Katie explains the bundle dying technique that she uses, laying the plant material onto organic fabrics, mostly calico and silk, and rolling it up tightly. During ‘muhlu’ – the cool season – the rolled fabric is boiled in water for about an hour. You can vary the resulting colours by including rusty objects or adding vinegar. In the hot ‘garwarrn’ season, when it is too hot to have a fire, the bundles are placed in glass jars of water and left in a sunny spot for solar dying. This slower process takes a number of weeks, as the tannins migrate from plant material to the fabric.
Katie shared these skills when she was invited to her mother’s country in Roebourne, north-west WA, through the Nyinart Yinda artist-in-residence program, and in turn learnt to use local plant species from this area.
To watch the full interview with Katie, head to Gardening Australia’s Reconciliation Week special.
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