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Natural Dyes with No Serial Number

Updated: Jun 13, 2018

This was the first event in a new monthly series of talks, Q&A and networking committed to helping artists, creatives, crafters and designers with a passion to discover methods that help work towards a more sustainable society, the event was also streamed live online.

Zoë Burt's beautiful Grow Your Own Colour sketchbook

The talk concentrated on natural dyes and the modern day practitioner’s use of past methods of extracting dyes from plants for art and textiles. Alessandra the editor of the wonderful No Serial Number magazine opened with a reiteration that making can become an act of resistance, they want to encourage business and design that solves environmental problems as part of the artisan's processes and practice.

Lara Mantell, a textile designer specialising in fabric screen printing, introduced their CERES project, which has combined interests in plant colour dying processes for both paper and fabric. “For the past two years they have shared their experiments and knowledge and worked together delivering natural dye and print workshops at Kew textile designer specialising in screen printing onto fabric.”

Zoë Burt, artist, designer and lecturer at Morley College, gave us an insight into her natural colour learning process and some of the many helpful contacts she had found along the way. Zoë began with some of her inspirational craft people, such as Ethel Mairet (1872 – 1952) who was a weaver and dyer and influential in the 20th century craft revival. As Zoë developed her techniques she also followed a course at Plumpton College with Sue Craig who worked alongside Jenny Dyer (I checked the course is no longer available at Plumpton, but Zoë did recommend Justine Aldersey-Williams who hosts online dye courses and face to face workshops).

Jenny Dean's dyes from Zoë Burts workbook

The renewed interest in natural dyes can be seen in many ways, for example, at the V&A people were fascinated in the natural dyes from pomegranate rinds that were employed in the Fabric of India exhibition. The Ditchling Art and Craft Museum had many visitors to their exhibition about Ethel Mairet's old dye recipes. Emma Neuberg has developed a 'Slow Textiles' group, Teresinha Roberts, a biologist and embroiderer has a blooming natural dye plant business called 'Wild Colours' and The London Textile Fair (18th &19th July 2018) will include sustainable Future Fabrics.

Other helpful resources: A new book 'Botanical Dyes' by Bebs Behan (it is very clear, I now have a copy), 'The Wild Dyer' by Abigail Booth and an upcoming course with Zoë at RHS Hyde Hall, 28th July.

workbook of red dyes
Red Dyes from Zoë Burt's workbook

The next No Serial Number meeting will be at the same place, the R.A.W. Lab, just a 5-minute walk from Gallions Reach DLR station, London, E16 2QJ on the last Thursday in June, well worth a visit and their next magazine, the summer edition will be available in print to buy or subscribe to as co-founder Francesca (subscriptions) will also be there at the next event:

Useful Links:

No Serial Number:

Zoë's day course in July 2018:

Justine Aldersey-Williams online certified dyeing course:

Ethel Mairet's natural dyes exhibition at Ditchling Craft Museum:

Teresinha Roberts:


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