Joanna Fowles: Natural dye researcher

Joanna Fowles: Natural dye researcher

Jim Watts March 06, 2019

Sydney, Australia
Natural Dye Researcher & Artist

For this week's Journal entry, The Organic Tea Project met with Sydney based natural dye researcher and artist, Joanna Fowles to get to know her and to learn about her process and interests. Jo’s work involves extracting colour from natural materials to create natural dye, she combines dye, hand screen print, mark making and shibori to create abstract geometric artworks on fabric that often represent a particular location or palette from plants. Jo knows her stuff, with over fifteen years in the design industry she’s sold and exhibited her work internationally and has sold to clients such as Louis Vuitton, Paris.

What’s your passion project and can you tell us a bit about it?

I guess you could say my passion is colour but instead of getting colour synthetically or from a tube, I like to create it by extracting colour from plants. For the last few years I have worked exclusively with natural materials to create colour. I recently started a research degree focusing on the plant potential of barks, roots, seeds, flowers and skins to create naturally derived colour. It is an exciting journey that is connecting me on a deeper level to the amazing hidden properties of plants. Plants have medicinal and nutritional properties and they can also provide us with colour to decorate almost any natural material. It is an exciting journey that I feel honoured to be exploring as both my practice and research.

What’s your favourite organic product and what makes it so special to you?

Something found from my urban Sydney surroundings. A fallen Eucalypt branch to add to a dye pot or a wild plant to eat. I recently went to a workshop with @theweedyone with Diego Bonetto and we walked along the Cooks River; he opened my eyes to the potential of weeds as edible bounty there is so much there right under our noses. We just have to look. It was an eye-opener and exciting to add to my plant knowledge learning to identify weeds like Sowthistle, Scurvy Weed, Wood Sorrel and Poor Man's Pepper. Diego likened foraging to an outdoor larder of edible snacks we would have known many of these plants not so long ago. As a result plants keep popping up in areas I had walked along so many times before...

Can you share with us any of your favourite daily rituals? Perhaps a morning or evening routine you couldn’t live without?

A simple new discovery to feel alive and awake is a cold shower. It still takes my breath away but I feel energised after I have one. I can thank Vital Veda and his recent water podcast for that one. My household is hectic in the morning but if I can have a cup of tea and claim 15-20 minutes to meditate I am a better person with all I interact with including myself!

Can you share with us something you read, saw or heard recently that resonated with you?

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It is the best book I have read on plants, plant knowledge, honourable harvesting, indigenous connection to land and the all-round magic of plants. I highly recommend.