Plant Dyed Textiles with Jane Palmer
An interview with the force behind Matson + Palmer.
I love a good creative space. The artist in me wakes up when I’m in a well used, airy, inspiring studio. Visiting Jane Palmer’s space downtown made me want to take out my dusty paint box, and start to play with colors and shapes again. What makes Jane’s work even more special is the fact that she uses all natural dyes for her beautifully layered designs. Indigo, Cochineal, roots, bark, wood, flowers all used to come up with glorious hues, that are then made into yarn for her luxurious blankets or fabric for her pillows and clothes. I didn’t want to part with one of her delicious blankets, made from cashmere pieces from her new line Matson + Palmer. Each blanket is one of a kind using rare, irregular hand twisted cashmere sourced from a women’s co-op in Afghanistan, and then dyed with Jane’s warm natural colors. It amazes me that we can get such colors from our earth! Her studio has a corner that is Indigo splashed and another where she houses all her key ingredients. Her connection to the natural world determines what she wants to create. Read her interview below for more inspiration. Her quote on only wanting things that can be buried outside should be one we all follow!
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1) What makes your Heart sing?
What a sweet question. There are so many things that make my heart sing! My three nephews really get me going, nature including the mountains and the sea, people doing kind things for each other, love and laughter, traveling, science, the idea of infinite possibilities, creative expression, and connecting with another person in any way are some of the few things that make my heart sing.
2) Tell us about what inspires your dyes and textiles?
Color! I love color, and I love what two colors next to each other can create. It’s like a magical romance where they remain independent and what they uniquely are, but they can bring out the best in each other by being side by side. For example, I’ll spend hours creating the perfect shade of rust, not too orange and not too pink, so that it can shine next to a burgundy and not get lost or look dull. The relationships between color are very inspiring to me because they can tell a story that can’t be told any other way.
I’m also very inspired by history and chemistry. I love researching natural dye recipes from the old days. One of my favorite finds was a recipe for true black from the Middle Ages. Since natural dyes have been around for thousands of years, I basically have the same ingredients in my studio as the dyers did in the 1500s. So I tried the recipe and it worked! It was a very rewarding experience because I thought it was impossible to get a true black, especially without iron, and now it’s one of my most used colors.
3) Do you feel LA is a creative center at the moment?
I do! I moved here 5 years ago, and it feels there has been a flood of creative people moving here in the last 10 years. I think LA offers a lot to creative communities because it has space—not only physical space but a sense that anyone can carve out their niche and be successful, however one defines that term. What I love about my creative community is that it’s very generous with support and genuine interest. I think people here are very driven, but they don’t seem as competitive with each other as other places I’ve lived. There is space for everyone here as long as you keep at it, which in turn makes LA a very creative center.
4) What do you love about Indigo?
Honestly, everything. I love the process and the result. It’s such a unique dye because it has to be done slowly with zen like patience. There is no rushing it or doing it in mass quantities. I love the way the multiple dips layer on the fabric to create depth. It’s not a flat color, it glows from within and is constantly shifting like a night sky.
5) Do you have a motto or philosophy you live by?
“Everything I make I want to be able to bury in the backyard.” What this means is that all materials I use should not harm the earth and should never be forced to go to a landfill because of inherent toxins.
6) What is your favorite piece right now?
All of the Matson+Palmer blankets and pillows.
I love that I don’t have to cut any corners on any part of my process. It’s about my own creative indulgence and learning from one piece so I can take and expand that knowledge into the next one. The blankets are really special because we use hand-spun cashmere from a woman’s co-op in Afghanistan. The yarn is supporting woman who have lost their husbands and fathers in the war, and it’s giving them an economic opportunity outside of poppy production. We receive the yarn, undyed, and I dye it using roots, bark, flowers and even insects. I then hand it off to my partner, Christy Matson, who hand weaves it on a Jacquard Loom in Los Angeles. The pieces are all one of a kind, and we love making them.
7) What gets your creative energy flowing?
Lots of things! Seeing something like a nail rust in water will spark an idea of exploring some chemistry; going to art shows has always been a source of inspiration and creative energy; going on hikes and letting my mind go somewhere else; swimming; and a deadline never hurts!
8) Are you a mermaid or forest fairy?
Ha! I love this question. I think I am a mermaid that has grown frog legs to be able to wander the forest as a fairy. When I meditate I am in the forest, but my earthly body cannot survive without being in water.