Rebecca Burgess’s Harvesting Color
We are in awe of Rebecca Burgess. An accomplished artisan, Rebecca focuses on the life of fiber, dye, and fabric in our human ecology. She compassionately teaches us how to draw upon local riches to create gorgeous garments. Harvesting Color is both a beautifully accessible guidebook to creating your own dyes and fiber from local materials, and an enchanting argument for living within our “fibershed.” The book is a marvelous gift for people interested in craft, plants, clothing, and human ecology. Featured in this photo is yarn dyed with elderberry, excerpted from Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess. (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2011.
That term – fibershed – means the geographic range from which your fiber, dye, and fabrics are drawn and fabricated. It’s a notion like watershed or foodshed: the region through which our essential and potentially renewable resource cycles.
Our watershed and the water cycle within it are usually traceable. In the case of San Francisco, our municipal water comes from Yosemite National Park though an aqueduct to reservoirs in San Mateo County. Meanwhile, the watershed we actually inhabit, drained by the city’s creeks and lakes into the bay and ocean, persists amid pavement and parkland, and receives the effluent of our imported water and sewage treatment process.
Just as San Franciscans (and the vast majority of Westerners) subsist on imported water, so do almost all of us in industrial society clothe ourselves in imported fiber and dye. Costs aside, by drawing on locally sourced fabric constituents, we can attend to the very specific beauty of our own Bay Area habitat. We can make and wear that beauty!
We’re at a fascinating, even dramatic, moment in the flow of ideas about how our first-world societies are evolving. The fate of the earth, the direction of change, the risks of complacency – they’re all up for fervent discussion right now. Rebecca Burgess makes a wise and moving contribution to that discussion.