MSN Fresh Perspectives
Artisanal fabrics to dye for - Audrey Louise Reynolds partners with nature to create inspired textiles
By Kelley Guiney
Turmeric, artichoke, maple bark and dirt may not be items that come to mind when you think of high fashion, yet these are just a few ingredients artisanal fabric designer Audrey Louise Reynolds uses to craft her one-of-a-kind creations. Reynolds challenges herself to capture the colors and patterns of the earth, creating dyes from natural materials and evolving unique methods of applying them to fabric. The distinctive results often evoke such phenomena as wind, fire and the incoming tide. A native of North Carolina, Reynolds moved to New York in 2004. In this interview, Reynolds talks about her background, inspiration and process.
Fresh Perspectives: Is it true that your original inspiration came from getting grass stains on your favorite pants when you were 6?
Audrey Louise Reynolds: Yes, and it was intentional. I went into the backyard and started sliding around pretending I was a baseball player because I wanted to have pants that looked like theirs. It really started to make sense to me, the way I could deliberately put streaks in certain directions. It’s a technique I still use.
You really trust yourself and you’re very bold. You’ll try anything to get the effect you want.
I really will. And I find that everything I love, I’ll find a way to bring in. I started doing tide prints, by unrolling large pieces of fabric at the water’s edge. I run across the middle of the fabric with my dye, drawing a line lengthwise. When the tide comes in it will push the dye up the fabric, leaving the exact same outline, that beautiful wave line you see when you’re looking at the water.
You started out using ingredients from nature and now you’re employing the actual forces of nature.
Exactly. I’ve been challenging myself to bring together things that would have never come in contact with one another. Maybe I dug clay up from below the earth when I was spelunking and made paint from it and now it’s being used in collaboration with the ocean to make a print.
Your pieces look so balanced, the designs look like paintings. Is that deliberate?
Sometimes it’s deliberate and sometimes it’s not. I can block out places on the fabric so I’m limiting where the wind’s going to affect a certain area, and that creates the chaos within the continuity of the garment. But it’s also amazing if I don’t block out anything, how many times — because of the mathematics of the world — I will try and create something that’s chaotic and crazy and even within that, I’ll find patterns.
Can you talk about some of your favorite materials and colors to work with?
My favorites are plants and things of the earth that also have medicinal and culinary uses. I love the colors I reach from experimentation as well. For spring fashion week, I hand-painted a bunch of vintage boots and used ground-up fool’s gold to tint some of the paint, which looked really amazing, like rock glitter on the shoes. And I used different earth tones I collected, like earth from North Carolina, which is kind of a red-brown. Squid ink, sumac, indigo, rose, earth and moss have to be my most commonly used favorites.
You seem to have a strong connection to your home in North Carolina. What brought you to New York?
I wanted more stimulation, more of a melting pot, all sorts of things this city has to offer. I’m constantly influenced by the modern age and I love living here. The constant stimulation keeps me inspired and keeps me creating.