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Beautiful & Botanical

Beautiful & Botanical

As creatives, we search far and wide for inspiration in all its forms. We take a look into the world of Babs Behan, the founder of Botanical Inks and ask her a few questions about the importance of partnering with nature in design.

Tell us about your studio...

Botanical Inks is the only UK studio that provides non-toxic, plant-based colour and dyes for surface applications, whether it be wood, textiles, paper, yarn - any kind of 100% natural fibre. We are based in Bristol, working with paper mills in Somerset and use local wool from Fernhill Farm. They use innovative techniques, regenerating the soil and carbon neutralising their process - they’ve created an amazing eco-agricultural model. We then card, spin and dye the wool with organic plant dyes from Bristol, then it is woven into cloth by the Bristol Weaving Mill. This is all done within a 15 mile radius, I think that’s pretty incredible.

I create my work from the ground up

I always work from a clean & thoughtful ethics point of view, I create my work from the ground up. Everything comes from the earth and is biodegradable. No harmful chemicals are used in any stage, from the farming to the finished cloth and garments. When it goes back into the earth it actually provides nutrients for the soil.
We pay everyone what their skilled work deserves. We are really passionate about enriching and supporting local communities and preserving British heritage through using traditional techniques.

As part of Botanical Inks, I run Bristol Cloth (our first product line), host workshops and I have a book too.
The book is comprehensive manual covering how to source fabrics sustainably, how to forage for natural dyes, how to make your own printing mediums and how to create many dye techniques (like bundle dying with fresh flowers, hapazome photo- realistic flower printing etc). In the workshops I host, we up-cycle old clothes with shibori tie dye. I want to help people to detoxify their creative practise and get into DIY culture...

Most of the artisan communities across the world are rich with local traditional art forms, but lack the knowledge or resources to access global trade

What led you to set up Botanical Inks?

I had my own ethical fashion label that was produced in India. We used recycled vintage silk saris and end- of-roll vegetable dye block-printed cotton to create exuberant costumes and jumpsuits for festivals. All pieces were made from recycled sources so we were not making anything from scratch. So I guess I’ve always been interested in sustainability and ethics in fashion but I knew I wanted to be a part of something truly regenerative. I stopped my fashion brand in 2011 and set up Botanical Inks in 2014.

I spent that time travelling to places all over the world, learning different natural dye applications, from block printing in Peru and yarn dyeing with local plants in India, to Indonesian Batik wax printing. It was really inspiring to see how different cultures translate their dye techniques and it was great to study with all different craft communities. After travelling I came back to the UK and started a 3-month artist residency to hone in on natural dyeing and developing my practise. I focussed on building a relationship with local plants and fibres and started my dyeing workshops from there.

I want to inspire people with beauty

I’m actually trained in fine art, in painting and illustrating. My specialism was creating large scale canvas art painting and also very detailed intricate toiles, almost photo-realistic. It was my fine art background that moved me into more expressive and colourful materials and processes. Creativity is prolific and isn’t contained to one medium or technique. What I do now? It’s painting and colour for textiles for the home, for fashion etc.

How important is nature in your creativity?

I value nature’s importance for a meaningful and healthy life. I am true lover of nature, making time for long barefoot walks and sleeping out in the woods near my studio. Being immersed in nature is deeply restorative and grounding. There is something so powerful about being able to re-ground and re-centre simply by being in nature. I’m very inspired by the healing and medicinal properties of plants. I’ve spend a lot of time getting to know plants more. I’m actually studying an intuitive herbalist course at the moment to have a more energetic relationship with plants.

I have a deep connection with nature

I bring this connection to nature into my work by hosting workshops where I bring people out of their urban environments and into nature, walking in parks, woods and beautiful gardens. It brings a sense of mindfulness so people feel calm, present & connected with nature before they even start doing any work.

I love gathering colour sources directly from nature. It’s such an intuitive connection and a beautiful way to source colour for your creativity. I love having a direct connection and a more meaningful understanding of what the colours are and where they come from.

 

***All images are a curated selection from Botanical Ink’s Instagram or website.

***Credit & Copyright of video belongs to Landlore

To sign up for a workshop, buy the book or find out more about Botanical Inks, please visit:
https://www.instagram.com/botanicalinks
https://www.botanicalinks.com



4 comments

  • really enjoyed reading about your sustainable ethics and reading about the Botanical inks and photographs of the processes for natural products. So inspiring to hear about companies who are able to use their crafts to try to educate us all about the GOOD reasons to buy ethical products. IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER INFORMATION OR WEB SITES FOR SIMILAR PEOPLE WE WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED. Still miss your shop in Southsea, can’t feel the fabrics when you buy online. Very interesting article.

    Barbara George
  • Was a big fan of your products and shops. Are you online only now or do you have any retail outlets?

    Gill white
  • How fabulous to see other artisans at work with a link to your own ethos.

    Don
  • I’m an ex Art student who studied fashion/design at Art college in the 1960’s and LOVE anything creative especially using natural fibres/threads/materials, colour/texture. I’ve never explored dyeing but it has always fascinated me, and I’ve always loved EAST, so am delighted to receive your newsletters.

    Judith MACBETH

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4 comments

  • really enjoyed reading about your sustainable ethics and reading about the Botanical inks and photographs of the processes for natural products. So inspiring to hear about companies who are able to use their crafts to try to educate us all about the GOOD reasons to buy ethical products. IF YOU HAVE ANY OTHER INFORMATION OR WEB SITES FOR SIMILAR PEOPLE WE WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED. Still miss your shop in Southsea, can’t feel the fabrics when you buy online. Very interesting article.

    Barbara George
  • Was a big fan of your products and shops. Are you online only now or do you have any retail outlets?

    Gill white
  • How fabulous to see other artisans at work with a link to your own ethos.

    Don
  • I’m an ex Art student who studied fashion/design at Art college in the 1960’s and LOVE anything creative especially using natural fibres/threads/materials, colour/texture. I’ve never explored dyeing but it has always fascinated me, and I’ve always loved EAST, so am delighted to receive your newsletters.

    Judith MACBETH
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