Exercise: Ethical textiles

India Flint

India Flint is a textile artist who is deeply concerned with ethical and sustainable issues. Her work focuses on dyeing and printing techniques which have both traditionally been seen as quite harmful practices but she has developed techniques to achieve near zero impact on the environment.

India Flint uses naturally sourced mordants from found objects such as oak galls, found scrap metals, sea water, urine, fermented fruit rinds but also the liquid from tofu. Her dye and printing items are sourced from local walks where she collects wind fallen leaves, bark and other plant materials but never picks directly from the plants allowing them to continue to grow naturally without damage. She never imports dye stuffs from abroad preferring to work only with what is available nearby wherever she is.

She beautifully recreates the essence of place, by absorbing her surroundings whilst on a walk she works with items closely tied to the area. She has developed a way of printing from leaves using only natural items as a way of recording her response to surroundings and space she works using techniques of mending patching and stitching as well as dyeing and printing. Creating beautiful fabrics, sculptural items as well as installations. Working within nature all the time, and consciously paying close attention to her physical impact upon the spaces she works within.

The printing process involves patience and time. Using her carefully collected materials she wraps them tightly within carefully sourced fabrics that have been mordanted. She wraps and ties them in different ways and then uses moisture, heat or simply leaves time to do the work.

For examples of her work see www.indiaflint.com

Initially she learnt basic techniques from her grandmother whilst she was growing up. Her grandmother used onion skins, tea and marigolds to dye clothes. She has subsequently learnt everything from reading extensively as well as experimentation whilst keeping notes to refer back to. Developing her skills and continuing to do so.

Some of the patterning she produces from the leaves is achieved by beating the leaves against the fabrics. She places a wooden block and the bottom then the fabric with the plant materials on top, covering with paper she then beats it leaving a strong impression of the plant patterns on the fabric. It is then set with a steam iron.

www.indiaflint.com

Is it possible for a company or individual designer/artist to be completely sustainable and/or ethical or is there always likely to be a compromise involved?

I think it is very hard to be completely sustainable and most artists / designers will find that there is some compromise to be made, but I do believe that it is not completely impossible. It is about understanding and knowledge mixed with an absolute passion and determination to make that change and difference. We are spoilt in some ways nowadays because we know and have access to many possible techniques, fibres and materials. Some of which are not sustainable or ethical. I think that it is important to remain mindful of all implications whilst weighing up the pro’s and con’s.

Is it possible to combine sustainability and/or an ethical approach with maximum profitability?

I think it is possible but only when producing a high end, high quality product. It wouldn’t be so easy to mass produce sustainable or ethical products. Some companies do try but it is usually at the expense of something and therefore ceases to remain sustainable.

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