Navbar button Craft Business Search Button

To download your FREE COPY

Click here
Editorial blog

Eco-dyer India Flint talks about sustainability, her life and work

08 Jun 2019

Eco-dyer India Flint whose exhibition, incomplete journeys, will be at The Festival of Quilts this summer, talks art and sustainability


India, you’re a lady of many talents – an acclaimed textile artist, traveller, writer and teacher. What can we expect from your exhibition, incomplete journeys?

The question made me laugh so much. Apparently I once informed an elderly shop assistant: “that’s no lady, that’s my mother!” incomplete journeys is a collection of hand-stitched, plant dyed “cloth objects” that to me read as poems about place, odes to the earth.

Your farm in South Australia and the nature all around you are the source of much of the inspiration and raw materials for your work. How important is a sense of place to you personally and for the work you make?

It’s critical. In my work, the unique physical aspects of a place (water quality, local fl ora) are as important as my emotional experience of it. The farm I am fortunate to live on is a 500 acre open studio in which I roam, gather material and formulate concepts. But sometimes, as in my exhibition anthology (New Orleans, March- April 2019), pieces are prepared at home and then infused with local colour nearer to the place of exhibition. It all depends on what story I want to tell.

Is there a natural material that you have not yet worked with and are keen to explore?

Almost every plant in the world will yield some kind of colour…I haven’t even walked around the tip of the iceberg yet!

Much of your work is wearable (aprons, coats) – how important is it to you that your art is functional?

I made wearables for a while (Halle Berry bought two of my dresses, bless her) but I only make clothes for myself now. I don’t really distinguish between clothing, bedding or wall adornments. They all perform important functions. Some warm the body, others the heart.

You famously validated your eco-print process (bundling leaves and other natural materials in damp silk cloths to produce unique, wash-fast prints) through a post-graduate research degree rather than patent it for commercial use. What was the thinking behind that decision?

I knew that many large international companies have employees whose job it is to trawl through new patents and harvest ideas. Such companies would be too large to fi ght, for one thing; but more importantly I have observed that when anything is done on a large scale, the impact on the environment (even from something as supposedly “friendly” as this technique) can be disastrous. Imagine a company churning out thousands of pairs of ecoprint pyjamas, delivering tonnes of waste leaf matter and discharging volumes of compromised water (all leaves are acidic, so will lower the pH of the water they are processed in). On a small scale the leaf matter and water can be neutralised with a little ash before being distributed in a garden, but I cannot imagine a large fashion manufacturer caring much about this. Bad enough that the ecoprint has been hijacked by the “plastics and toxins” brigade.

Through your School of Nomad Arts (and via the power of the internet), students all over the world are learning how to use your eco-print method to create their own work. How important is this community to you?

It’s proving to be a marvellously friendly and sharing community. People are seeking out stitch sisters in their region and meeting for tea and cake and sewing. And by using this wider means of teaching, it brings sustainable practice to so many more people, some of whom don’t have the means or the time to travel, or even to attend classes local to them. I have a warm feeling about this work.

Which textile artists do you think are making exciting work right now?

I am excited about each person who is moved to take up a needle and stitch, to mend a garment, to spin, knit or crochet, or to twine string. There is something about making things by hand that is good for the soul, and I have a strong belief that the deep satisfaction in making something for oneself can be a positive contributor to our physical and mental health. As far as contemporary artists go, I don’t think I have enough information to point at anyone in particular. I tend not to follow much of what’s going on.

What projects are you working on currently and what’s next for you after The Festival of Quilts?

At present I am travelling in Morocco and stitching on a quilt-like piece made entirely from salvaged clothing recently acquired at a thrift store in New Orleans. It’s about 5’ x 6’ and very comfy to sit under while on a plane. I’ll probably dye it back home. I’m also working on my nine-month long “armchair wandering” for the School of Nomad Arts. After The Festival of Quilts, I have workshops in France, Scotland and Canada, fl owed by a residency at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. In 2020, I have a journey to India followed by three solo shows, all in Australia. And somewhere in between all that, there’s a novel that wants writing.

India Flint’s exhibition, incomplete journeys, is at The Festival of Quilts, NEC Birmingham, from August 1-4, 2019

From the Craft Business Directory

Bringing Innovation To The Craft Jewellery Market…

ImpressArt founder, Adam Wolter, provides insight on his unique business model and products, how ImpressArt became the world leader in metal stamping, and what to expect next...

» Read More

Your Questions answered by West Yorkshire Spinners

Richard Longbottom, Sales and Marketing Manager of West Yorkshire Spinners, answers your retail queries...

» Read More
01-04
August

The Festival of Quilts

Birmingham NEC
01-04
September

Autumn Fair

NEC Birmingham
13-15
September

The Handmade Festival

Hampton Court
facebook twitter calender