In honor of our self-proclaimed color month, today we’re peeking into Noon Design Studio in Los Angeles, the only natural dye production house in the United States. Founder Jane Palmer grew up in East Tennessee and has been interested in arts, crafts and textiles as long as she can remember. She studied textiles at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, where she had the experience of making art in a historically rich area for not only crafts but also the in an area of the US where the remainder of the textile industry is located. After graduating with a BFA, Jane moved to Chicago to get an MFA in textiles at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She stayed in Chicago for ten years before moving to Los Angeles almost three years ago. Jane started experimenting with dyeing in high school – she had a crafts booth at a local fair where she sold tie-dyed underwear! She’s come a long way since then. Most of what she knows about natural dyeing, Jane has taught herself and she says that she’s still constantly learning. Natural dyeing is an art form but it’s also about chemistry – what happens when the pH is lower? What happens when it’s raised? It’s an endless process. For the past two and half years, Noon Design has been focused on dyeing as a service to other apparel designers But this year, Noon Design Studio is launching its own product line – a home line including blankets, floor covers and pillows; a naturally dyed fabric line for sewers, quilters and craftsters; and a basics apparel brand for men and women in conjunction with one of their clients Daniel Corrigan, who is co-owner of Simon Miller USA. I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on those blankets! Thanks, Jane! And a big thank you to Nancy Neil for sending Jane our way! –Amy Azzarito
All images by Nancy Neil Photography
Image above: The studio has been an on-going practice, in different forms, for about 10 years. It started as an art collaboration, named noon solar, between myself and Marianne Fairbanks where we had a philosophy of wanting every product we made to be able to be buried in the backyard at the end of it’s life. This was before the green movement, so we could barely even find organic fabrics for sale, and since we wanted to be thorough we taught ourselves the basics of natural dyeing. In its current form, the practice known as Noon Design Studio has been around for about two and a half years. I still have the philosophy that everything we make here should be able to be buried in the back yard and create nutrients for other living things. If it’s possible, why not?
Image above: That’s a huge stack of indigo shibori cloths. Shibori is an ancient Japanese technique of folding and clamping that creates a resist, or pattern, on the fabric. We hand dye each one individually as a wrapper for our indigo kits. It’s hard to have a favorite dye because they are all so unique in color and process. But if I had to choose one, it would be indigo. It’s a magical dye that glows from within and can’t be replicated with chemicals. I also love it’s very old history–it was used by almost all ancient civilizations including the Mayans and Egyptians who dyed their linen wigs with it.
Image above: That’s the “dry” side of our studio. We have our conference table and cutting table in the image. Our studio is on the 10th floor with unobstructed windows facing west and south. We have gorgeous light and great views of most of the city, the Santa Monica mountains and the ocean.
See more of Noon Design Studio after the jump!
Image above: We mainly garment dye, so pictured are piles of white pants that are ready for dyeing. Next to them are examples of the same pants dyed in olive and orange.
Image above: This is one of our indigo dyers working on lace trim for a client. The trim will be sewn onto indigo dyed garments, or other colored garments.
Image above: This is our sampling vat of indigo. We use it for small samples and shibori experiments.
Image above: This is another one of our indigo dyers working in the vat. As you can see the color of indigo in the vat is green! The oxygen in the air turns it blue. One can dip fabric into the vat and leave it in for 5 minutes or a day, it will still come out and oxidize to a light blue. To achieve a darker color, it must be dipped again and again and again. It’s a layering process that takes time, but it’s worth it.
Image above: This is a bag of cochineal beetle shells. Cochineal is an ancient dye that the Oaxacan people developed long before the Spanish arrived in Mexico. The insect is a parasite that lives on a cactus, and it’s shell is crushed and used to make a very vivid fushia dye.
Image above: This is the table in my dye room. We have our old little trusty scale there, along with some madder roots. Madder roots were cultivated in India almost 4 thousand years ago to make a rich red or orange color. We use them in the same way as they did then. One of my favorite madder recipes calls for soaking the fabric in castor oil and letting the dew at night draw the oil into the fibers, and the sun during the day to dry it and fix it. After we repeat that process 3 or 4 times over a couple weeks time, we use the madder roots to create a fiery, glowing red color.
Image above: Dyes in the dye room
Image above: The pillow cases were made with fabric that already had some metallics and prints on them, and then we over-dyed them with indigo.
Image above: Very fine shibori dyed in indigo, along with some towels dyed in indigo.
Image above: Naturally dyed scraps from various projects over the past couple of months.
Image above: A noon design studio blanket dyed with madder root and cochineal.
Image above: Noon design studio totes made with our naturally dyed scraps.
Image above: Flea market find of an 1880s table cloth that we dyed in indigo. Indigo is a perfect color for table top goods because it’s light fast and doesn’t react to acids like lemon juice or bases like milk.
Image above: The components to our indigo dye kit. Each kit comes with all needed dyes and auxiliaries, instructions with shibori ideas, one pair of gloves and rubber bands. The dyes are packed in dissolvable paper to eliminate waste, and the shibori wrapper can be reused for wrapping or anything else.
Image above: The sign outside our door to let you know you are in the right place.
Image above: Room with a view: one of our windows open with downtown outside. Our super lo-fi stereo system on the sill.