Lower East Side Girls Club Event at the Dye Garden

In July 2022, the Textile Dye Garden at Pratt hosted an event with the Lower East Side Girls Club. This event was hosted by Ife Oluwamuyide in collaboration with Erin Benard, Printmaking Seniors and Dye Garden work study students. Below, Ana Codorean interviewed Ife about her experience working as an intern for the Lower East Side Girls Club, and about the bundle dye event she put together.

How did you get involved with the textile dye garden? What interested you in natural dyes?

Erin Benard introduced me to the garden; she has been part of the textile dye garden team since it began. I was drawn to the work she was doing in our printmaking class that centered around indigo dye and working with fabric. This was also something I want to include in my work at the time, and Erin taught me all I needed to know about this method. Because of how much I enjoyed working with indigo, I was interested in other methods of natural dying and reached out to the garden to join the team.

Do you use natural dyes in your own artistic practice?

In the past I’ve used indigo dye in my work, experimenting with pattern-making techniques such as shibori and clay resist techniques. Currently in my work I’m making handmade paper and creating pulp paintings. In the future as I continue making pulp pantings, I would like to color the pulp with natural dyes. That’s an experiment I’m excited about.

Tell us about your involvement with MoMA PS1 and LES Girls Club

I was a community engagement intern this past summer at MoMA PS1. PS1 has had an ongoing partnership with the LESGC through their summer programming. This year was a little different as the programming would be held on site at PS1. It was their first educational program led by Jackie Sumell. Jackie is an artist who’s work “interrogates the abuse of the American criminal justice system.” Solitary Gardens is a collaboration she began with the Angola 3 where she built greenhouses and gardens the size of prison cells and filled them with plants that the Angola 3 described in their letters to her. Growing abolition is a continuation of this work, sharing knowledge of the unjust prison system and prompting participants to envision our world without it and how plants give us unique insight into how to care for community.  

How did the collaboration with the Textile Dye Garden and LES Girls Club begin?

With the Growing Abolition program, a series of community garden visits across New York had already been planned so it only felt right to pitch Pratt’s Dye Garden as an extension of those on-site visits. In the classes the students had been learning the medicinal value of plants and so many other ways we can use them. But natural dying hadn’t come up in any of our conversations at that point. I felt that this would be a topic of interest for the students and so I brought it up with Elena and she was really excited about it.   

Tell us about the event you held

The event was a garden visit and bundle dyeing workshop. The group got to tour the garden and were introduced to the different plants we grow there, some of which they were already familiar with and some were totally new to them. I explained the functions of the plants, what they can be used for, and what colors they produced when turned into dye. After the garden introduction the group got to explore on their own and pick from the yield. This would be used in their bundle dye. For the workshop we had premade screen-printed t-shirt designs. We did a bundle dye demo explaining each step of the process, breaking down how the yield they picked can be used and what effects modifiers like iron oxide and soda ash can have on their creations. After the demo, the kids got to try it out for themselves.

How was the response from the students?  

The students loved it. They had a great experience, they were excited to learn about natural dyes. The students participated in a survey at the end of the summer program and many of them listed the workshop as their favorite activity of the summer. 

Why do you think it is important for children to learn about natural dyes and gardens?

It helps them become attune to the environment around them. They have a better understanding of how to take care of the earth and as an extension take care of themselves. There is so much to learn with natural dyes and gardens. The possibilities are endless! We want to save our environment, but in order to do so we need to engage with it on a personal level. 

Students touring the garden

Students gathering flowers for bundle dyeing

Students arranging flowers on the screen-printed shirts

Shirts were mordanted before this process

More arrangements

The shirts steaming after being wrapped into bundles

The finished shirts after steaming