There are many talented natural dyers out there, and the beautiful colors that they produced provide for endless hours of eye candy. But when I came across Maggie Pate, owner and designer of NÅDE Studio, I was particularly taken by her connection to food. Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nåde Studio makes small batch textile goods using food products and food waste, as well as foraged plants from the area.
To help make the link between food and fiber, not only does Pate use food products to dye with, but at Nåde she created an initiative called Feed Weave. As a part of this initiative, 10% of sales of weavings and home goods that are dyed using food waste go to community kitchens and non-profits that promote sustainable farming.
Pate recently released her book The Natural Colors Cookbook: Custom Hues For Your Fabrics Made Simple Using Food,
The chapters are organized by colors and shades, and the link between food and fiber is clear. In the introduction she writes, “it is undeniable that we live in a culture of immediacy. From fast food to fast fashion, our commerce and lifestyle are structured around rapid consumption.”
This is something that we discuss a lot at the Food and Fibers Project, and the sentiment really resonated with me. Pate continues, “when the culture of immediacy becomes commonplace, we forfeit the value of locality, craft, culture, sustainability and artistry.”
I was honored that Pate took the time to tell us a little more about her work.
How did you NÅDE Studio get started?
Most of my young adult life, I worked in fashion in New York City. When I moved to Tennessee there wasn’t much or rather any opportunity to continue that so I took a desk job. I worked for in the marketing department for a Dot Com. It was a steady job with a creative company, yet I would would go home exhausted and unfulfilled. I knew I need to get back to creating again so I started a very small batch textile company – NÅDE – that produced silk painted scarves and natural dyed fashion accessories and home goods. Since then it has evolved into more products and custom weavings.
What local foraged plants do you dye with?
Most of the plants I forage for are typically seen as weeds or invasive plants. Some of my favorites are pokeweed berries and golden rod. Both produce delicate pastel hues!
How does working with dyes and textiles allow you to have a connection to place?
Oftentimes, I feel like a linguist trying to keep a dead language alive. Natural dyeing and weaving are lost arts. Companies use synthetic dyes and fibers and they use machines to speed up production to stay ahead of the demands of fast fashion and the consumers’ need for immediacy. Slow craft is dying off rapidly. There is zero connection to place and time .
Natural dyeing grounds me in the art of slow craft and all the ancient traditions of producing hue, which has always been wholeheartedly connected to place. The colors a dyer can create is exclusively restricted by what resources and plants in that location. My natural dye practice connects me to time and place in that way but also because I gather food waste from local restaurants and farms to dye with.
Tell me more about the inspiration for Feed Weave – why did you start doing this and why is it important to you?
Feed Weave was an initiative I started under NÅDE that used food waste strictly as the dye material. It began with strictly weavings that were made with food waste dye fiber and yarn but now it is the umbrella of any product that that has fiber dyed using food waste. Feed Weave has always been my passion project so when my publisher first approached me about writing a natural dye book – I knew it had to incorporate this concept. The Natural Colors Cookbook, debuted in June. It is completely inspired by the Feed Weave mission.
As part of Feed Weave you donate 10% of profits to community kitchens and nonprofits supporting sustainable agriculture. Can you share who some of those organizations are? How do they interact with your work?
Typically, I give to the local community kitchen here in Chattanooga. It is a cash donation to they can purchase food or supplies to feed the hungry. No one there interacts with my work – it is simply a give-back donation.
What do you see as the intersections of food and fiber?
Sustainability is extremely important to me as a natural dyer and conservationist. The food industry in America is one of largest contributors to the degradation of Mother Earth. Manufacturers and farms over-produce and then items are completely discarded. Then the items are purchased are not used to their full extent. There is a huge misuse of resources happening in our society in the name of immediacy and capitalism and I think where food industry is unwilling to counteract or make up for these fallbacks… the artists and makers can and should.
Most of my textiles are dyed using food waste or imperfect produce that will be thrown away. By doing so, I make use of waste and my art will hopefully challenge people to experience food in a new way as well as encourage others to reconnect with the narrative of food and how they consume it.