TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ecological Arts by Rebecca Burgess

"The role of Ecological Arts is to create art in order to understand and revitalize natural systems. Founder Rebecca Burgess has been a teacher and artist for many years."

As an environmental educator and textile artist, I am consistently looking for ways to engage students and the public in hands-on textile arts techniques that move us one step closer to living in greater harmony with the planet.

Ecological Arts offers a series of workshops
on using natural dyes and weaving.

I created EcologicalArts in 2004 as a way to house the sustainable textile arts processes that I was both creating and learning from other artisans around the world. Inspired initially by villages like Pejeng, Bali, and Sukhonakon, Thailand, places where women grow and spin organic cotton, raise and ferment indigo, and work cooperatively to produce beautiful finished goods. These villages illuminated sustainable textile production for me. Upon returning home, I felt the calling to start my own tradition.

California Fleuristic Province, home of Ecological Arts.

I live in the California Fleuristic Province, it is among the 25 most bio-diverse places on the planet. I felt there must be species here, in my homeland, that I can use for color- and thus avoid the carbon footprint incurred from ordering all of my dyes from overseas, or even out of state. In the process, I have become a natural dye harvester, restoration gardener, and an unintentional steward. I prune, I weed, I replant, and I seed- it's all a part of the harmonious and reciprocal process. Stewardship and dye work are now hand-in-hand activities for me. My garden is both a restoration site for native and useful dye plants, and an experimentation zone of Indigo, prairie wildflowers, and pokeberry.

From plant life to yarn color, dyes by Ecological Arts.

While there are still dyes such as cochineal, and logwood, whose colors I have not found sustainably harvested substitutes for, I was able to find and create recipes for every color of my hearts desire. And, there is still a lifetime of experimentation left in the fields and hillsides of my homeland.

As a canvas for these natural colors- I connected with the local sheep ranchers, angora producers and organic cotton farmers. These relationships have given me the opportunity to economically support local fiber producers. They create some of the highest quality raw materials in the world, and yet their origins are at most 70 miles from my home!

These processes I undertake are nothing new in history, they are in fact quite ancient, and yet- I feel that every moment of creating with nature’s raw materials is a novel experience. The permutations and possibilities for what a textile artist can do with the resources within his or her community is truly stunning.

Yarns by Ecological Arts.

Rebecca Burgess graduated from UC Davis in Art History, and while in the central valley spent time studying at DQ Native American University. Searching for art outside the academic canon, she found a Native American basket weaver. The artistry, ecology, and function of the native baskets became her inspiration. While traveling throughout the United States, and Asia she found remnants of ecologically focused textile art traditions.
Through each investigation she became increasingly inspired to begin a local tradition within her own bio-region. Ecologicalarts was born in 2004. An organization dedicated to creating, reviving, and teaching, art forms that utilize resources to promote thriving eco-systems.

Rebecca is a member of the Fiber Focus Group, has a blog, website and sells on Etsy.

Find more photos like this on Fiber Focus

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