Dye Assist // Wildcraft Studio School

Cherry Plum Tree dye bath
Cherry Plum Tree dye bath

WildCraft Studio School is a creative mecca for traditional skills, plant medicine, studio art and craft, located in White Salmon, Washington. If you’re a dyer, chances are- you follow WIldCraft in some format. Founder Chelsea Heffner drove down from the PNW to teach a native plant dye workshop in partnership with Healdsburg SHED owners, Cindy Daniel & Doug Lipton. Chelsea and I met over the airways and I drove up to assist with an unexpected large class on May 31st.

Chelsea is a multi-disciplinary artist and Assistant Professor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. She led the workshop and a native plant walk through Cindy and Doug’s wild gardens before harvesting several dye plants for the class to test. Among them were wild fennel, cherry plum tree, and black walnut.

Walnut dye bath
Walnut dye bath

We simmered the baths for 30-45 minutes before filtering them into dye vessels. Each student had silk and wool samples, mordanted with various minerals. They took turns soaking their samples in steaming baths- some experimenting with shibori. By the end of the class, we’d tested 7 natural plant dyes.

My favorite moment was a listening to a conversation between Chelsea and another participant about a weaving class she’d hosted. The artist and teacher, a Native American man, was reluctant to teach anyone outside of the tribe. He made an exception and taught Chelsea’s favorite workshop to date- a highly challenging, multi-day workshop on hat weaving with native plants. Chelsea said each student walked away full of appreciation and pride.

Follow WildCraft Studio School on Instagram, here.


Cindy and Doug’s home was an enchanting backdrop to the workshop. They built the home after returning from an inspiring stay in France and added sustainable features like rammed earth walls. Although they have an orchard and some landscaping, they’ve been working to restore the rest of the property to wild native gardens.

Cindy & Doug's home in Healdsburg, CA
Cindy & Doug’s home in Healdsburg, CA

Interested in attending one of WildCraft Studio School’s Classes? Click here.

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Dye Assist // Wildcraft Studio School

Juniper Ridge X Jungmaven High Desert Tees

Soaking Creosote bush for the dye bath
Soaking Creosote bush for the dye bath

Juniper Ridge transforms the intangible wilderness into perfume. I work in our Oakland workshop distillery among a sharp group of fragrant women and men. Jungmaven is a hemp knitwear brand based in Los Angeles working to promote industrial hemp production that would reduce cotton growth that’s detrimental to the environment.

Jungmaven founder, Rob Jungmann and Juniper Ridge founder, Hall Newbegin, have been friends for a while. Two parts of a small network of west coast sustainable apparel and fragrance brands. I wouldn’t be surprised to find either one comfortably asleep on the beach or under a California redwood. They travel light and feel at home when they’re on the road, outdoors and sharing ideas.

We spent 3 days together in February at Desert & Denim where I discovered the potent dye potential of one of our perfume ingredients, Creosote Bush. I used it in my dye workshops during the show to the delight of the crowd.

Photo by Skyler Greene
Creosote dye bath at Desert & Denim, photo by Skyler Greene

It was Jessica Arkenstone, Juniper Ridge Marketing Director, and Jordan Vouga, our Art Director, who dreamt up the High Desert Tee. The project was underway with the return of the wildcrafting team with bushels of Creosote Bush. I transformed the Juniper Ridge loading bay into a small dye house for 2 weeks, sampling prototypes with various mordants. We settled on a worn desert green and celebrated the painted dye pattern.

Jordan sporting the High Desert Tee on his roadtrip across the desert
Jordan sporting the High Desert Tee on his roadtrip across the desert

The project is featured in Trail Notes, Juniper Ridge’s blog. Here’s an excerpt from my interview with chief storyteller, Obi Kaufmann.

When asked about the relationship between wilderness perfume and natural plant dyes, Celine says, “I remember talking to Joshua Tree locals – people who grew up there. They explained that the scent of Creosote is their memory of rain. When it rains, the steam carries creosote oils into the wind creating a potent musk. Only after experiencing rain in another landscape did their memory of Joshua Tree rain become meaningful. Scent doesn’t come in a singular form. It exists in the air, in perfume and (now) the fibers of our clothing.

“Scent doesn’t come in a singular form. It exists in the air, in perfume and (now) the fibers of our clothing.”

There’s no way to ensure consistency with natural plant dyes without chemicals. That’s why they’re so lovely. Each bath is the discovery of a plant’s life cycle and subsequently a new journey. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for? Carving out a unique story with plant dyes is exactly what Juniper Ridge does with harvest stories. No two batches are the same, each reflects a specific time and place.

Wanna check out the High Desert Tee? Click here to shop Juniper Ridge Field Labs.

Juniper Ridge X Jungmaven High Desert Tees

Pomegranate Dye // Canoe

Natalie Davis of Canoe preps the pomegranate
Natalie Davis of Canoe preps the pomegranate

Punica granatum or pomegranate is eaten for its tart and nutrient dense properties. It is native to Iran, cultivated all over the world and, because it is drought tolerant- grown in Texas as an ornamental shrub. I was surprised to learn that pomegranate inspired the naming of the grenade, from the spanish Granada.

Luckily, my neighbors grow 2 pomegranate shrubs that produce bitter fruit and they were happy to gift me inedible fruit for a dye bath. Remember, fruit is not the only indicator of dye color- leaves, branches and bark can also be rich sources of color.

Pomegranates are easy to harvest and fun to break apart (video below). They can be fresh or dried before extracting color. When I first dyed with pomegranate in Oaxaca, the fruit was dried. I soaked them in water for 2 days before adding heat. If you collect fresh pomegranate, I recommended soaking them for 24 hours but if you’re limited on time- soaking is not necessary.

Pomegranates soaking
Pomegranates soaking

Dyeing is a good solo activity but much more fun with friends. Natalie Davis is owner/designer of Canoe in Austin, Texas. She is a friend and talented leather worker and came over to test leather in a few dye baths. Watch her break up pomegranates for the dye bath. If you do this at home- wear protective eye wear and protect your work surface from hammering.

I mordanted fabric prior to dyeing and we spent the day testing materials and overdying with cochineal, pecan and indigo. Fabric was for 30 minutes to an hour and hung to dry in the hot Texas sun.

Pomegranate and iron dye bath, Oaxaca
Pomegranate and iron dye bath, Oaxaca

Larry Stein, Jim Kamas & Monte Nesbitt. Pomegranates. Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M University, 2010. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/fruit-nut/files/2010/10/pomegranates.pdf&gt;

Bonny Wolf. Pomegranates: Jewels In The Fruit Crown. Kitchen Window series, NPR Books, 1 Nov. 2006. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/2011/07/15/6411097/pomegranates-jewels-in-the-fruit-crown&gt;

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Pomegranate Dye // Canoe

Desert Pigments // Desert & Denim

Photo by Colin McCarthy, zine by Jordan Vouga
Photo by Colin McCarthy, zine by Jordan Vouga

Juniper Ridge hosted a gathering in Joshua Tree back in February. The high desert weather can be unforgiving that time of year but it was clear and beautiful. Still adjusting to the cool, calm and collected Bay Area weather- I recharged in the hot desert sun, grateful for the opportunity to sweat.

Our small group from Oakland gathered quietly the first night then parted to get some rest for the busy days ahead.

The second evening sprawled out under the star filled sky. Steady whispers grew from the darkness into bustling talk and laughter. We fell silent when Melaena Cadiz sang by the campfire against a glowing rock wall backdrop. Poets sang and campers squeezed in to listen and share the campfire.

Each tent had its own origins. Pete and Tony of Tellason came in from San Francisco, Mats and Kari of Indigofera flew into southern California and rode in on bikes, Cate of Havstad Hat Co drove down from Oregon, Margaux and Walter of Peg and Awl traveled in with their boys, Noel and Fletcher of Gnome Life sold albums, and the Fellow Barber crew flew in from east and west and constructed a barber shop on the desert floor.

Photo by Skyler Greene
Photo by Skyler Greene

I hosted a native plant and indigo dye station both Thursday and Friday. I packed Mt. Tam-native Toyon and coastal sagebursh but the night before the event, I tested a different plant, native to the desert and a fragrant contributor to Juniper Ridge harvests: Creosote. Oily and covered in flowers, I submerged the whole plant in warm water and a golden hue poured out. Testing fabric samples as the resinous florals wafted over me in the steam, I bathed in the discovery of this new dye plant, hearty with color.

Photo by Skyler Greene of Candy Mountain Collective
Photo by Skyler Greene of Candy Mountain Collective

Everyone delighted in overdyeing the creosote golds with indigo. Rob Jungmann brought hemp tees from Jungmaven for the dye baths. Jody Dunphy of Second Nature Project made and dyed hemp paper from Jungmaven production waste. A few artisans dyed their wares. Morten of For Holding up the Trousers dyed his handmade suspenders, pictured far left in photo below.

Photo by Skyler Greene
Photo by Skyler Greene
desert-and-denim-morton
Photo from Rawr Denim

Read about it:
Rawr Denim
Seaweed & Gravel
Iron & Resin
WGSN

Desert Pigments // Desert & Denim