Shibori and Indigo Workshop with Yoshiko Wada


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The Contemporary Textile Studio has been host to a number of talented visiting international artists, and this spring saw the acclaimed artist, author, curator and teacher Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada host a workshop on indigo and shibori. Shibori techniques have been an … Continue reading

Workshop Highlights – Natural Dye Printing with Thea Haines

Over the next few weeks, studio member Dr. Roohi Qureshi will be blogging and bringing us highlights of workshops and events happening in our active studio this summer.  Her first blog post provides some lovely photos and inside info on our workshop held this past June with Thea Haines:

CTS recently had the pleasure of hosting former studio member Thea Haines for her workshop on Natural Dye Printing. Thea is a textile artist and designer who specializes in environmentally sustainable methods, including natural dyes. She is an instructor in textile design at Sheridan College. Her Natural Dye Printing workshop was based on her MA research at Chelsea College of Art and Design, in London, UK.

Workshop Instructor Thea Haines and Natural Dye Colour Charts

The workshop was held over two Sundays in our studio. At the start of the workshop we had the opportunity to view the lovely samples she had brought with her.  They included miles of natural dye colour charts which she had put together as part of her MA research. It was fascinating to see the wide spectrum of colour she has been able to extract from plant material. They weren’t anything like the dull colours many people often imagine when they think of natural dyes.

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Even more interesting than the range of colours she had managed to achieve using natural dyes, was learning about her technique for printing with them.

Thea took us step-by-step through the whole process.  She first covered a range of tannin-rich mordants which can be used to prepare the fabric before dyeing or printing, including gallnut, sumac, myrobalan, pomegranate, cutch, and black walnut. Mordant facilitates the chemical reaction between the natural dye chemicals and the actual fibres of the cloth. This is important because it fixes the dye to the cloth.  We made colour charts with the different mordants, noting the effect of pH, alum and iron on the colour from each mordant.

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Once the cloth has been mordanted, it can be dyed or printed upon with natural dyes.  We used mordanted cloth to produce a colour chart with natural dyes including osage orange, marigold, madder, brazilwood, cochineal, and logwood extract.

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Finally we experimented with block and screenprinting using the dyes.

This workshop was so informative and it was worth it for the colour charts alone as they are a very handy reference for planning future projects using natural dyes.

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Interested in learning more about Natural dye and Natural Dye Printing?  Check out these great books and websites below.  Or register for Thea’s upcoming workshop: Natural Dye Printing; Sat. Oct. 26 + Sun. Oct. 27, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  Tuition: $300.00 + $50.00 materials fee.  Email for more info.

Further Information:

Adrosko, RJ (1971). Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing. Dover Publications. 160.

Burgess, R (2011). Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes. Artisan. 192

Dean, J (2010). Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes. Potter Craft. 144.

Duerr, S (2011). The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft with Organic Colors from Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients. Timber Press. 172.

Flint, I (2010). Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles. Interweave Press. 240.

Natural Dye Workshop with Michel Garcia: Colors of Provence Using

Sustainable Methods 2-Disc DVD set; 183 minutes. Slow Fiber Studios, Berkeley, California, 2012

Maiwa. Natural Dyes. (2013) last accessed July 26, 2013.

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International Visiting Artist Workshop – Maxine Sutton


The Contemporary Textile Studio is over-the-moon-excited to be hosting internationally acclaimed textile artist and designer Maxine Sutton for a 3 day public workshop in our studio.  Maxine will also be giving a public lecture at the Textile Museum of Canada while she is in Toronto.

We have a treat for our readers today:  Studio member Kerry Croghan chatted with Maxine about her inspirations, creative habits, studio + shop, and what to expect in her upcoming workshop.


CTS:  Can you tell us a bit about the concept behind your textile studio and craft shop Blackbird.  Describe the connection between the shop and your goals as an artist/designer?

MS:     I was encouraged to open the shop below my studio, (now called simply MAXINE SUTTON STUDIO+SHOP) by all the exciting regeneration and creative energy in the town of Margate where I am based. I wanted to create a real bricks and mortar space to showcase contemporary handmade work of my own and others. Because of the internet, real places and spaces are as important as ever. The retail landscape and our local communities are changing. How people spend their leisure time, what and how we consume, as well as attitudes towards craft and manufacturing, are all hopefully changing in a positive way.  A real space offers opportunities for communicating and expressing some of these thoughts.


CTS:  Are there any habits or rituals that you have for getting into a creative frame of mind?

MS:     I love rituals and habits and I don’t have enough of them, I want to cultivate more!  I’m always jumping around from one thing to another, physically and in my head! I’m a gatherer of too much information and I often find it hard to switch off or channel my ideas onto one area. When starting on new work I usually spend a day or two – reconnecting with ideas in a very simple way – often reassembling drawings and notebooks. Basic cutting and sticking.

CTS:  Name three things/places/people that inspire you.

MS:     I’m inspired by anything and everything. ie; abstract painting, figurative painting, animals and natural history, folklore, David Bowie, the sea, plants and gardens, films, houses, architecture, my family, handmade clothing, folk art and textiles, Kate Bush, choral music, Margate, Cornwall, New York, the V&A ……..and so on.


CTS:  Your website includes some lovely images from your sketchbook.  Describe the role your sketchbook has in your design process.

MS:     My sketchbooks are really important, I use sketch books as my main way of recording and collecting ideas, and I bring these to the worktable table when creating new artworks or designing for interior collections. In the past I have kept a fabric sketch book, which I make up with pieces of linen, blanket and canvas. Together with a needle and threads I use this to “doodle” and draw with stitches and little bits of applique like collage.


CTS:  In your opinion, what does it mean to be a textile designer today?

MS:     Textile consumption and sustainability are key issue for designers now. There is a lot of waste and still lots of exploitation in the textile industry which is surely impossible to ignore as a designer.  It’s hard to be completely ethical and properly ‘green’ in every decision one makes as a consumer because we are all so time poor, and it is confusing sometimes, but as designers and makers we definitely have a responsibility to think about the ‘stuff’ we put in the world.


CTS:  When and where do you feel most creatively energized and productive? What kind of environment do you find is conducive to your work?

MS:     mmm energy levels and productivity, honestly? I always feel I’m losing that battle. I always need more energy and want to be more productive, but trying to learn to accept there are only 24 hours in a day and I need to sleep for 8 of them at least.  Basically I’m with Chuck Close on this subject, you just have to show up and do the work, don’t wait for inspiration all the time, or the right frame of mind, moment or place. These days I find I just have to get on with it, inspiration and ideas develop through making and doing the work.

CTS:  What do you love about working with textiles or about your work in general?

MS:     I feel connected to textiles in a very fundamental way.  I have always drawn, and I love painting and working on paper. Also the immediacy of the screen print process is something I really enjoy, but textiles and working with fabric feels like a part of my identity. I grew up making things with fabric: clothes for dolls, clothes for myself, little stuffed animals, gonks, fabric pictures and collages, little beds, sofas and bedding for my trolls, presents for family, things for the house.  It’s just something I will always do.


CTS:  In general, what do you hope that our participants will take away from our workshop with you?

MS:     I hope we will discover new approaches to working with stitch and print and develop some ideas surrounding everyday objects, narrative and still life. Exchange ideas and perhaps germinate a few and create something we will want to keep.


International Visiting Artist Workshop – Maxine Sutton

Heart and Hearth: The Things of Life – recording the everyday with traditional textile techniques

Workshop Dates:  June 28-30, 10am-4pm

Cost: $330.00 + $50.00 materials fee

For more info or to register visit:

Don’t miss Maxine Sutton’s public lecture at the Textile Museum of Canada on Wednesday, June 26th at 6:30pm; tickets $10 at the door.


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