Cardiff Met Leads the Way with Pioneering Natural Dye Garden: Getting to the root of things

​29/09/2016

Cardiff Metropolitan University aims to become the first educational centre in Wales to introduce an academic natural dye-plant facility in conjunction with a university dyeing laboratory, to facilitate students, researchers and Widening Access Summer School visitors.

Project founder, Dr Keireine Canavan, Head of Textiles said: "With existing academic expertise and related international research at Cardiff School of Art & Design, the dye garden project will enhance and develop the educational delivery of natural dye practices, colour theory and further research. 

"The project aims to revitalise an awareness of endangered dyeing skills in Wales, provide educational and environmental enhancement, plus promote wellbeing for all students and campus users."

Although still in its preliminary stage, the dye garden project is a direct response to student and staff interests, and aims to propagate a campus community, as well as to enhance academic delivery of artisan practices and colour theory. The garden will also provide a beautiful place to draw, relax and attract local ecology.   

A location has been provided on the University's Llandaff Campus, with an agreed funded maintenance programme for the garden.  The garden is one of a number of eco-friendly practices currently being introduced to further enhance the University's green credentials, and will further sustain cultural traditions and the student experience.

The project has cultivated interest from staff and students across the campus, as well as from a number of external experts and museums. 

Planning workshops, led by Keireine Canavan, have involved staff, students and friends of Cardiff Met, with invited guests such as Michelle Griffiths, UK president of the World Shibori Network Organisation, and African indigo dye expert and PhD student, Lucille Junkere (Churchill Trust Fellow.)

Local plant dye expert, Jane Meredith recently gave an insightful lecture and natural plant dye workshop at CSAD.  Students participating were able to see examples of Jane's work, and practiced dying yarns and fabrics using natural indigo dye and plant material from Jane's own garden.

Speaking about the workshop, BA (Hons) Textile student, Vaida Zigmantaite said: "Jane's workshop was very informative.  I learnt a lot of new dying techniques while also learning about natural dyes and the processes, including how to maximise the use of various colours. It is incredible what you can do with things that grow in your own back garden."

The project has received external support from organisations including the Horniman's Museum & Gardens in South London, with Head Gardener, Andrea Benson advising on suitable plant materials, while St Fagans Natural History Museum, the Wool Museum - National Museum Wales and the World Shibori Network Organisation will also be involved.

Speaking about the project, Keireine Canavan, said: "Textile staff have considerable experience using natural dyes, and we have wanted to incorporate it into the curriculum for some time.  A growing cluster of PhD and Masters students are developing an interest in using natural dyes as an alternative to synthetic, chemical dyes, as a response to sustainability of the environment and endangered global artisan techniques.   

"We are currently applying for additional funding to take the Natural Dye Garden Project to the next level and to make natural dyeing part of the CSAD curriculum. If successful, we hope to incorporate other eco-friendly projects here."  ​

If interested in participating in the Natural Dye Garden Project: Llandaff, please contact Keireine Canavan on kcanavan@cardiffmet.ac.uk or 02920 416634/7.  All welcome.

This project was supported by the Student Experience Fund, which was made possible by generous donations from alumni, staff and friends of Cardiff Met: www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/supportus​