Five dye pots with colored fabrics inside them.
Courtesy Sasha Duerr and Princeton Architectural Press

The Terroir of Natural Color Dyes

By Aileen Kwun
June 13, 2020
1 minute read

Textile artist Sasha Duerr centers her work around plant-based dyes with the curiosity of a dedicated alchemist, growing and foraging leaves, branches, prunings, wood chips, flowers, and even food waste to create vibrant hues. Her latest book, Natural Palettes: Inspiration from Plant-Based Color (Princeton Architectural Press), presents an antidote to the exacting industry-standard Pantone swatch—one that’s defined by biodiversity over industry trends, and embraces a circular approach to fashion, clothing, and food.

“Plants are indelible storytellers, connecting us emotionally, physically, environmentally. A walk in the woods, the remains of a summer meal, the scent of California sagebrush, a June bouquet—all provide depths of inspiration from which we draw meaning,” writes Duerr, who grew up between Hawaii and Maine, and advocates for an approach to the fashion and clothing industry that parallels that of the Slow Food movement. “In the food world, terroir means much more than merely the circumstances that create a better-tasting grape; in the world of natural color, it is by knowing our sources that we can begin to appreciate the process, grasp its meaning, and most fully participate.”