Supporting the production, use and understanding of Natural Dyes in Northeast America.

Almost obliterated in the 19th century with the invention of synthetic dyes, today natural dyes derived from organic materials found in the environment (e.g. plants, minerals, insects, etc.) are undergoing a revival worldwide. Such revival is a response to the pollution, socio-economic violence and harmful practices of the mainstream textile industry and has led to both a rediscovery of the many historical, non-western and indigenous dyeing practices worldwide as well as innovations through scientific partnership (e.g. bio-dyes using bacterias).

Yet, in comparison with other regions in the world, Northeast America lags behind. Knowledge and cultivation of plants suitable for natural dyeing in Northeast America is still in its infancy. With regards to skills and knowledge, there is a glaring gap in educating future generations of fashion and textile professionals: there is no certification in natural dyes in any academic institutions in North America, let alone the Northeast. In terms of communities of professionals, natural dyeing is not simply about learning techniques in the narrow sense, it demands commitment and practice over many years: it is a long-term learning process that requires establishing a network and community of professional and dedicated natural dyers with local and global roots. These lead to the main challenge to be addressed for this conference: how to establish a vibrant natural dye sector in Northeast America to answer to the linked concerns with the protection of environments, health promotion, socio-economically just relations, cultural growth and creative expression?

The purpose of this Symposium Series is therefore three-fold: First, to further promote natural dyes as a crucial response to contemporary environmental concerns, health and socio-economic disparities, and the need for community building. Second, to foster new knowledge networks to support the development of the natural dye sector in Northeast America and third, to offer a space for the natural dye community to come together to explore and further develop best practices.

Land Acknowledgement

Even though this conference now has to happen online and unfortunately, we cannot be gathered in the same place, we would like to acknowledge the land. The organizing team for the conference is located in Toronto, which is on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples and is now home to many indigenous people. This territory is subject to the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement to peaceably share and care for the Great Lakes region.

The conference host Ryerson University is built on land taken from indigenous people as part of ongoing colonial processes. As well, textile has long been part of global colonial processes and its history is marred by systemic appropriation, exploitation and destruction of humans, living beings and their environments worldwide. The practice natural dyeing in Northeast America today is a way to face these colonial processes and to commit to overcoming them.

Ganaele Langlois (York University) and Joseph Medaglia (Ryerson University), conference co-chairs.
Anika Koslowski (Ryerson University), conference programmer.
Jenna Reid (Ryerson University), Exhibition organizer.
Colleen Schindler-Lynch (Ryerson University), Exhibition organizer.
Rachel MacHenry (OCADU), Curator.

Online Conference Design and Implementation: Joseph Medaglia, Elisa Arca, Sam Shaftoe.
Communications: Tori Fleming.
Social Media: Madi Schmidt.