I spent most of my childhood in East Tennessee. When I was an early teen, I began modeling in New York City, which encouraged my interest in textiles and gave me the opportunity to travel more. In my travels I was able to experience the life and culture of other areas, and was able to see the textiles unique to each.
The fashion industry is notoriously wasteful, and it inspired me to find ways to create more sustainable and thoughtful processes by which to create my own fashion brand and textiles. A career that I began as a model has now evolved into me owning and designing an independent textile company featuring hand-dyed fabrics made here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My brand is called Nåde, and it’s the passion project of my love of fashion as well as my love of natural, sustainably hand-dyed textiles.
Growing up, my grandmother inspired my interest in sustainable living. She grew up in an orphanage in Alabama and became a very resourceful woman. She made her five children’s clothing as well as garments for many of her grandchildren.
P.S. I Love This
Right now, my favorite item in my studio is the large weaving I am working on. It took a month or so to
source all the natural fibers, which come for Australia and Iceland, as well as North Carolina, Tennessee,
Georgia and Texas. Then the wool roving was dyed using black bean food waste to create the icy blue hue.
Because it is not a commissioned piece, I only get to work on it when I have free time … so it has been on the
loom for four months now!
I love that my products have a story of conservation and a narrative that grounds people within the slow food and slow craft movement.
Sometimes when I am working on a dye bath or weaving, I feel like a historian keeping the art of slow craft alive in this industrialized world. Both natural dyeing and weaving are becoming extinct as trades as the majority of companies dye synthetically and use machinery to produce materials.
The thing that pushes me to keep creating through struggles, both personal and economical, is that my work has a purpose beyond aesthetics or commerce, or even being simply a job. Natural dyeing is about sustainability and more specifically dyeing with food waste makes use of items that could be and will be thrown in the trash. My hope is that my work will educate followers, admirers and those who purchase that there is a better way to create.
I am not sure if being creative has much to do with how I view the world; however, I feel that as a creative I am more visually sensitive to it. Therefore, I am constantly observing, making connections, and using visual metaphors. That’s probably just me being idealistic and romanticizing my surroundings.
Travel is a wonderful means for me to both disconnect and reconnect. When I am traveling, it forces me to be away from my workspace and social media, which allows me to disconnect from the rat race, (which is often how it feels). Often when I travel, I visit countries with a rich history in textiles or natural dyeing. Visiting cultures where textiles make up a large segment of the cultural sphere allows me to reconnect with the craft.
Community plays a huge role in how I create. I rely heavily on local farms and restaurants to collect food waste, which allows me to continue to produce favorite items for my customers and experiment with new ideas.
Luckily, the textile world is truly full of open, generous and encouraging humans. Thanks to social media, I can have conversations with other dyers and weavers from all over the world. I can connect and collaborate in the blink of an eye, and I love that aspect of social media.
Social media can also be a gateway for self-doubt. If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: don’t compare your Chapter 4 to another’s Chapter 20. Comparing where you are in your business to where another might be is only going to create frustration and anxiety. I tend to want to jump to the end of books and it is the same with my small business. I want to jump to the section when the business is completely tenable, but everything takes time.
Seeing others dedicated to creating with the same care and passion as myself ignites my passion again.
Like many creatives, I have to do freelance work to make ends meet financially. I take photography and styling jobs occasionally; other makers I know have part-time or even full-time jobs. Managing my freelance jobs with my studio work is a struggle, especially since natural dyeing is typically a process that takes several days.
I would say my biggest accomplishment thus far is my natural dye book The Natural Colors Cookbook, which was released in June of this year. In researching it, I spent over a year exploring the cross-section where food and slow craft intersect. The book aims to create beautifully crafted textiles using food products and food waste straight from your kitchen, pantry or compost. My hope is that the hues rendered from this food waste will challenge you to experience food in a new way. I also hope to urge others to reconnect with the narrative of food and the history of slow craft textiles.
When it comes to my business and my craft, I’m still figuring it out. Not having an answer sounds more appealing and exciting than knowing it all! I think artisans and makers are always finding their style and journeying toward real things. My business and my style are ever-evolving, which honestly helps me stay engaged in my craft. So, for now, you can find me working on my new favorite item in my studio, a large weaving that combines my love for weaving and my passion for natural dyeing with food waste.