Talking To Bee Bowenby Polly Leonard
Bee Bowen is a textile designer who uses leaf-dyeing to create her uniquely patterned cloths. Pursuing new colours and techniques in eco-printing has taken her around the world, but in a brief period of calm, she spoke to Jessica Edney about her work:
Do you remember the first time you experimented with dyeing cloth?
My first encounter with dyeing was an 'art' day at school involving piles of elastic bands and many buckets of bright coloured liquid… Many years later, whilst studying masters of textile at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, I received a grant to study the artisan textiles in India. This was a real life-changing experience for me, being exposed to the artisan techniques that have all but died out in the western world. I was gripped by the process, the dye masters in desert towns, the steaming pots, the colour bleeding into the fabric and the folding and binding the cloth to make beautiful resists, unwrapping - the whole experience was a treat to the senses.
Where is home for you?
I grew up surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of Buckinghamshire in the UK. I spent my teens in Denmark. And after university in the England I somehow got stuck in Sydney where my one year working holiday visa extended to 18 years... Recently, family has brought me back to Europe. I feel lucky to feel at home in many places - and there’s always more leaves to explore. Home is where the leaves are, I guess.
How important is sustainability to your brand's ethos?
Sustainability is a huge part of my brand ethos. I want to create one-off pieces with meaning that are kept and treasured, and help people connect with nature. I love the fact that I can create such beautiful and patterns in a way that's kind to the planet, and that each piece tells a story of a time and place. It's great knowing that wherever I am in the world there are dye sources at my doorstep and I love the fact that I have to interact with nature to find them.
What is your favourite plant to dye with?
Oh, there are many - of course the eucalyptus is one that’s always a delight to work with. There are so many gum varieties with so many hidden hues and the maple family is another because of it delicate shapes… my favourites change all the time - so it never gets boring…
You've travelled extensively to many beautiful places. Where would you like to visit next?
I’m up for anywhere… but perhaps Central America to explore their natural dye traditions.