While at the Holiday Market this year, be sure to stop by and visit Jesikah Orman. With her unique and creative textiles made with foraged and plant-based botanical dyes, she plans to demonstrate eco-printing and will offer a variety of the perfect gifts to give this holiday season! Whether it’s indigo handkercheifs, tunics, pillow covers, or scarves to brave the cold winter in!
Artist: Jesikah Orman
Where are you based?
I live in Clarks Summit with my husband and 2 year old son. We moved last fall from Minnesota and are really enjoying the beautiful landscape, kind and friendly community, and peaceful life here! My studio is in my sun room. It’s a small space but has amazing light and opens to a balcony so I can work outdoors, too.
Tell us a little about your work.
Ever since I was a small child I have loved painting with watercolors—-their fluid, gentle washes of color. That is my first memory of using color. Since then, I have continued to make paintings with different materials and processes (watercolor, oil, screen printing, natural dyeing). Now my focus is primarily on making one of a kind textiles using foraged and plant-based botanical dyes. I am absolutely in love with the process of natural dyeing. Each step is meaningful and interesting, from foraging and researching plants and fibers to experimenting with ways to make their connection more painterly, or more modern, or more refined. My hope is to one day have some land and grow a huge dye garden to sustain my practice and to host workshops and classes. There is something very therapeutic about working with plants and fiber and I see a lot of possibilities for sharing that.
What types of mediums do you work in?
My practice involves a variety of activities exploring traditional textile processes (including batik and shibori with natural indigo and other natural vat dyes, eco-printing, screenprinting, monoprinting, sewing, and painting.) I spend a lot of time experimenting with color and form and investigating different materials, now especially with natural dyeing. This experimentation is really central to my work and from where I find direction and form new ideas. Recently I have started dabbling in spinning and dyeing wool and weaving and am really interested to see if and how this becomes part of my work.
How did you get into textile design?
My mom studied textiles in college and has a great love for them, which she most certainly passed on to me. So, for as long as I can remember I was drawn to textiles. I spent time volunteering in India when I was a teenager and was absolutely blown away by the gorgeous colors, patterns, the sheer volume of cloth. It was immensely inspiring for me. I went on to get a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was there in the Fiber and Material Studies Department that I discovered screen-printing and dyeing fabric. Such a revelation! I had amazing professors and my work grew, quite literally, from small watercolors to wall-sized mono prints/screen prints on fabric, like tapestries. I have continued to screen print and paint these last 8 years since graduating, but recently my practice has been almost completely focused on natural dyeing. I wanted to create a more sustainable practice and felt disconnected to the store-bought pigments I was using. Learning more about the tremendous toll synthetic dyes and “fast fashion” have on the environment combined with my new role as a mother and wanting to have less toxins in my home inspired me to reevaluate my work. I remembered a class I took at SAIC studying the chemistry of dyes and fiber and wanted to revisit that. So, I began experimenting with wax batik and natural indigo. What an incredible process; from making the indigo vat and preparing the cloth to observing the textiles transform from white to green to blue right before your very eyes. I was totally hooked. I started doing tons of research and collecting weeds and wildflowers in my neighborhood and began to discover this incredible world of color available in these unlikely forms. And from there grew an interest in making pieces that are extremely tactile, close to the body, utilitarian, but still very painterly. It’s like the sky opened up and all of a sudden there are endless possibilities for making and using these pieces of cloth that extends beyond hanging on a wall, and that is really inspiring and freeing to me.
Tell us a little about dye-making.
Natural dyeing is endless. Truly, the possibilities are limitless! You can create dye baths from plants, flowers, bark, rusty nails, etc—soak fibers in them for hours or days or weeks, cold or hot. It’s dependent on the seasons, the cycles of the earth, although you can buy many natural dyes in powdered extract form and that’s good, too. You can thicken the dye baths to make paints and printing inks and from there it really does become endless! Actually it’s all quite similar to cooking which I also love—a lot like making a broth or a brine. I suppose another reason the slow-food and slow-textile movements are so connected. There is an element of precision, measuring and recording that is important to understand the process and anticipate results, and to repeat them if you wish. And there are often many steps involved. The basic steps (for most dyes except indigo, which is a much different process) are scouring the cloth (washing to remove impurities), mordanting (a pre-soak in a metallic salt bath to prepare the cloth to accept and keep the color), and then on to dyeing (of which there are many different techniques!) One thing I have been doing a lot this year is called eco-printing or bundle-dyeing. I will go out for a walk with my toddler son and collect fallen leaves, berries or flowers (goldenrod, sumac, wild aster, pokeberry, mint, etc) and arrange them on yardage of linen, cotton, or silk, bundle them, and then steam them. This creates a permanent imprint of the plants and such interesting and unexpected patterns. You can shift the colors with color changers like rust water or vinegar or citrus. You can make dye baths by soaking birch bark or simmering avocado pits, both create beautiful pinks. Onion skins, red cabbage, tea and coffee can be used in your kitchen and then used to make beautiful color on cloth. I mentioned this earlier but I also really love dyeing with organic indigo. It is an amazing and magical process unlike other natural dyes. Many cultures have long traditions of using indigo in their textiles and they are amazing to see and research. I often use traditional resist techniques like batik (painting with wax to form a resist) and shibori (Japanese tradition of binding and tying of the cloth to create resist) to create more modern, painterly patterns. Another amazing dye is cochineal, made from the dried bodies of the tiny cochineal bug that feeds on the nopal cactus. It creates the most gorgeous magentas, purples, reds. I love the mystery of it all!
What kinds of work will you be featuring at the holiday market?
I will have a variety of table linens (tea towels, table runners, cloth napkins,) indigo handkerchiefs, tunics, silk and wool scarves, pillow covers, toddler t-shirts, wall hangings and yardage of fabric for sale. I also plan to have a little space at my table to demonstrate eco-printing— I’d love to connect with people and inspire conversation about the amazing world of natural dyeing!
Where else can our readers find you?