Let’s Talk SHOP: Amy Gunderson

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

Fiber artist Amy Gunderson. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Fall has arrived: pumpkin spice is everywhere you turn (literally everywhere), apple cider is calling our names, and the weather has cooled. All of which means it is time to break out our warmer wears to accessorize with our favorite scarves! Another anticipated part of the season is the mesmerizing color changing of the leaves. Nature really is astonishing! Most of the leaves have already started to fall from the trees, but luckily artist Amy Gunderson has preserved them into her textile art, creating silk wraps that are as attractive as they are intriguing! In this post, Amy will share the process of eco-dyeing – a technique that uses plants and steam to produce a print. She is also experienced in various other fiber techniques, all of which are on display in the Paradigm Gallery at FWMoA.

“I grew up in Fort Wayne and now reside in Indianapolis. I began knitting 20 years ago, then discovered hand-dyeing and eco-dyeing fibers, shibori, and nuno felting. There is something magical about starting with undyed silk and wool and transforming the fabric into something vibrant and beautiful to wear. 

I have always loved walking in the woods, watching the leaves change, and the change of seasons. The shapes, colors, textures, and patterns in nature are where I draw my inspiration from. This time of year is my favorite time for gathering leaves to use in my eco print work. I gather leaves while taking walks around my neighborhood with my husband and two kids and tending my flower beds. The leaves all have different shapes which can lend to interesting compositions, and depending on the time of year, will cast different colors on to the cloth. Come along on a walk, gather leaves, and enjoy what nature can create.”

To begin, I collect fallen leaves. I look for ones with interesting shapes and different sizes. I then soak them in warm water with just a bit of iron, this softens the leaves and makes them easier to roll and release their color.

Working on a large table, I stretch and smooth the silk. I lay the leaves on top of the silk. Then I mix and apply the dye.

Once the dye is applied, I roll the scarf up as tight as I can. The compression is very important to create a clear and definitive print. I then wrap the bundle with string very tightly and bend it so that it can fit in my kettle. I put my bundles in a large kettle and steam cook them for two hours. 

After the scarves have steamed for 2 hours, I let them rest overnight to cool. The most exciting part of the process is unrolling the bundles. You just never know what colors the leaves are going to reveal on the silk. There is always something unexpected, which makes it so much fun. I hand wash and press the scarves, then they are ready to wear. Once I discovered this process, I never looked at leaves and trees the same. It is exciting to watch the trees bud out in the spring and wonder what they will reveal.

Amy Gunderson’s scarves are wearable masterpieces, and they are flying off our hangers! To see Amy’s eco-dyed scarves in person, or more of her artwork, come visit us at the Paradigm Gallery Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.

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