Just before Covid-19 hit the fan, I spent a day with textile artist Karin Hall of Blu Byron. Karin has more than 40 years experience teaching visual arts in Australian schools, and for the last five years she has been creating stunning clothing and homewares using plant-based indigo dyes from her backyard studio in Byron Bay.
When life returns to ‘normal’, Karin is offering tailor-made indigo workshops for holiday-makers wanting to unleash their creativity, and curious creatives with indigo projects in mind. So, while we’re waiting out ISO, let’s meet Karin here online!
CA: Karin, what drew you to indigo?
KH: I’ve always loved the warmth of indigo blue. Indigo dyed textiles have been used for centuries by cultures in nearly every corner of the world and I find it incredible to be part of that lineage. Indigo is a natural plant dye that requires a process so different to other natural dyes – it’s almost alchemy. The process is challenging sometimes, there’s so much to get right: the ingredient ratios, ph level, temperature and oxygen. There’s so much to learn that I could keep on this learning journey for years. Indigo dyeing is slow, mindful and grounding for me.
CA: The clothes you make feel so luxurious, I love wearing them. What inspires them, and how do you feel about fashion?
KH: I was first inspired by the beauty of linen fabric, tie dye and shibori patterns. I loved them so much that I wanted to wear them! Indigo and linen are a perfect match as linen takes the dye so well. Linen feels so good to wear and it’s also a sustainable fibre choice as growing flax and producing linen uses few chemical processes and less water.
I get so much joy and confidence from really beautiful clothes that last and wear well. I have always loved fashion but style…that’s something else altogether. Our clothes are an expression of ourselves whether we’re conscious of it or not. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to watch a woman admiring herself in the mirror wearing one of my pieces at the markets. She knows she looks good. She stands taller somehow.
I make clothes I want to wear – for women who love indigo blue, the colour is as constant as a pair of blue jeans. I love linen, denim in classic shapes that can be worn with confidence in many ways and for many years. I make clothes for women who feel and appreciate the unique, handmade and hand dyed luxury inherent in each of my one-off pieces.
CA: Artists around the world have taken a huge hit from Covid-19. What are the ways it has impacted Blu Byron?
KH: When the community markets around Byron Bay had to close it was hard for stallholders. Blu Byron does most of its business at the markets and I love the sense of community and support that other makers share so generously. I have really missed the market community, the customers and the tourists. Market day is always a happy day for me.
Once restrictions are over, I intend to run small group workshop experiences in my home studio here near Byron Bay. So many people have shown interest in learning this process.
CA: I’m so excited you’re opening your studio doors for workshops. When we can free-range again, what can people expect from an indigo workshop with you?
KH: A workshop with me will naturally begin with a homemade cake and pots of tea. I like people to feel comfortable in my space. We’ll go through the steps to create an indigo vat at home, some basic tie dye and shibori folds and patterns, and then the whole dyeing process from start to finish. I can provide basic fabric sample pieces and then the rest is up to you! Participants can tailor their own experience. A small group of quilters might just want to create different fabric patterns for patchwork. A family group might want to tie dye t-shirts. A hens party might want to dye a set of table linens for the bride and take home pillow cases. The possibilities are endless! Claire, I loved your idea of piecing together your wedding celebration napkins into a larger piece.
CA: What’s the best way to get in touch with you about indigo workshops and experiences?
KH: People can find me on Instagram @blubyron and direct message me there, I love my Instagram community. Otherwise email me firstname.lastname@example.org or take a look at my website blubyron.com. Let me know if there’s anything on Instagram that you’re interested in too!
Thanks so much for chatting Karin!
If you’d like to see what I made in my workshop session with Karin, or you’d like to learn more about the indigo dyeing process, check out the pics below!
If ISO is driving you batshit crazy and you’d like to dive into a bucket of indigo or talk about workshops with Karin, message her on Instagram here or shoot her an email at email@example.com
And don’t worry if you don’t feel like making anything at all, it’s a completely normal response to this whole shit-show. But, if you’re feeling blue more often than not, please reach out to family, friends, your GP or contact the mental health hotlines below.
xClaire aka Pinky & Maurice
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service: 1800 512 348