By Patricia Belyea
SEATTLE WA I visited Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors at her company “headquarters” in Ballard—a work loft that functions as warehouse / dyeing lab / online shop / office. Equipment, dye materials, books and more filled every space, from floor to ceiling.
Kathy helps hobbyists, professionals and industrial clients embrace the art and science of natural dyeing. Once we settled in, Kathy enthusiastically showed me raw botanical materials that are processed to make dyes—including magical chunks of deep-blue indigo.
An important part of Kathy’s work is developing dye formulas for clients in the clothing industry. Typically she’s given small swatches of desired colors. Kathy refines a botanical formula for reproducing the colors, and, once approved, dyes the fabrics.
For individuals wanting to dye fabrics, yarns and threads, Kathy offers products and instructions on the Botanical Colors website. (You can also buy Botanical Colors dyes and mordants from Dharma Trading in Berkeley.)
For those seeking guidance, Kathy leads classes and workshops around the country. I attended one of her week-long indigo dyeing workshops in Seattle, during the summer of 2013. Our group prepared dyes using indigo from five different countries and dipped textiles we brought in our dye baths.
With her teacher’s hat on, Kathy showed me some eco-dyeing during my visit.
Instead of dunking in a dye tea, the hand-woven linen was sprinkled with dye powder, flowers and leaves, then rolled up and tied. We unwrapped the bundles and found St. John’s wort leaves, cochineal bugs and ground madder creating organic patterns of colors.
Before I left, Kathy showed me one of her most prized possessions—an incredible book by her long-time friend and teacher, John Marshall. His opus, Dyeing with Fresh Leaf Indigo, shows every single option of Japanese indigo dyeing. Printed in a limited edition of 100, production details include a hand-dyed silk cover laminated to hardwood, die-cut pages and tipped-in samples.
With an ongoing heat spell in Seattle, the work loft was warming up! We finished up and I headed home—a mere 10 blocks away. I mulled on something Kathy had said during our time together, “Î’m not a maker.” The more I thought about it, the more I disagreed. Kathy makes a huge difference in the work of others and the caring of our planet!
To visit the Botanical Colors website +click here
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