Why The Silk Studio will only use natural dyes

The art of natural dying is something we have been doing for thousands of years. Over the course of the last hundred years or so, natural dyes have been replaced with synthetic ones – the latter being somewhat cheaper, more easily accessible, yielding more consistent results, and therefore serving the fast-paced consumer-led world we find ourselves living in today.

Despite this, when I set out to produce dyed silk ribbons, I made a vow to only use natural dyes. Here’s why…

1. You get more complex colours

It’s just not the colour – it’s the complexity of them. Synthetic dyes tend to yield a flat, two dimensional tone whereas natural dyes will yield highly complex colours. It’s why it’s often so difficult to name my ribbons – they can look different colours when captured in different lights, making them completely one of a kind.

Whilst it is true that synthetic dyes can yield more vivid, bolder colours which aren’t so prone to fading, many of my customers and myself included prefer a more muted and subtle colour palette, for a more romantic and timeless aesthetic, especially where weddings are concerned.

2. It’s better for the environment

Providing the dye stuff is ethically and sustainable sourced and the mordents used are non toxic, it’s safe to say that natural dyes are better for the environment. The majority of the dye stuff used to make dyes at the Silk Studio are either from our very own kitchen waste (such as avocado skins and pips), found or forage from nature (such as thistles, nettles and blackberries), purchased from local markets, or from providers of ethically sourced natural extracts (such as sandalwood – this is often easier to access and work with in an extracted form).

I only use non-toxic mordants and wherever possible, will use plant based mordants, depending on the type of colour I am trying to achieve.

Not only does this mean there is less of an environmental impact – because natural dyes are from natural sources, this also makes them renewable.

Due to the time, cost and patience required when working with natural dyes, we prefer to operate in small batches.

3. It’s safer

Harmful chemicals from synthetic dyes are often highly soluble in water, making it difficult for them to be removed from the water we use to drink. They can also prevent the penetration of light through water, hindering the chemical process of photosynthesis. Synthetic dyes also often act as toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic agents which can effect entire food chairs.

You can read more about the harmful effects of synthetic dyes from this scholarly article here.

4. It allows for creative freedom!

I personally love the unpredictable nature of working with natural dyes. I love the process of foraging for seasonal dye stuff, then experimenting with different recipes on different fabrics so to yield different results. It’s a journey of discovery and one which allows me the opportunity to get creative whilst also applying my learned knowledge to manipulate a certain outcome.

Personally, I find dying with synthetic dyes out of a packet takes all of that creative experimentation and mystery away. And where’s the fun in that?

5. It encourages us to embrace the seasons and to harness nature

I’ve been vocal about how I came into the world of natural dying. It was a lockdown hobby which turned into a passion and then a business. Harnessing nature and using it to create something beautiful is a great feeling and does wonders for our wellbeing.

The Silk Studio is a boutique atelier, based in the artisan market town of Frome, Somerset.

Taking inspiration from nature, we use our artistry to lovingly hand craft silken adornments and to creatively direct weddings and events through intentional design.

Where fine art romance meets earthen beauty, we embrace all that nature has to offer, using  it consciously to serve those who value artistry, intentional design and natural beauty.

Branding images – Visible by Hannah

Product images – The Silk Studio

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