Releasing nature’s secrets: Artist uses local plants for ‘eco-printing’

Posted Sept. 24, 2015, at 11:04 a.m.

With nature as her muse, she never runs out of inspiration.

Eco-printing, a method of adding color, pattern and texture to cloth using local plant materials, is Amelia Poole’s “niche,” as she likes to call it.

Silver maple, flat-topped aster and bracken fern are only a few of the many trees, plants and flowers Poole uses to create unique prints. She prints on silk scarves and a variety of textiles, including linen, hemp and organic cotton, which she designs and sews.

Her process begins by layering prepared silk and linen with local plants and flowers. The cloth and leaves are bundled together, bound and steamed, resulting in a permanent transfer of pigment from plant material to cloth. When the bundles are opened, a work of art is revealed.

“It’s like opening presents,” Poole said.

The cloth is filled with pattern and colors, from the delicate veins of tree leaves to individual flower petals. All colors and patterns come naturally from the materials Poole uses, making it an eco-friendly practice, free of artificial dyes or paints.

“It’s one of my tenets, to use only plants that I’ve gathered myself, where I am, at that time,” Poole said. “Plants are here. They’re available. It’s my connection to where I live, and I love all the individual shapes and learning through this process more and more about these plants.”

Poole derived her own inspiration from India Flint of South Australia, who developed and popularized eco-printing, but her artistic inclinations began when she was only a child.

Raised by parents who were scientists, Poole had an innate appreciation for nature. She remembers weaving crowns of daisies as a child and playing with the sheep her family raised. Her mother taught her how to sew before she was 7 years old, and her love for creating only grew from there.

Poole, who grew up on a tree farm in Massachusetts, attended the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom, where she received a Master of Fine Arts in textile design and construction. Her studies led to an education in the nature and processes of textiles, not necessarily “textile art.” But after looking at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts catalog one day, a class about “eco-printing” caught her eye. She knew she wouldn’t be able to attend, as her daughter was only 1½ years old at the time, but she was intrigued by the concept and decided to try it.

She now has her own space, Ecouture Textile Studio in Brooksville, where she creates unique pieces of clothing and works with indigo, rust printing and nuno felting — which is important, given the seasonal nature of her eco-printing practice that requires fresh materials.

Perhaps most rewarding is how her artistic practice has impacted her personal life and that of her young daughter, who loves identifying local plants and opening bundles of fabric to reveal the art inside — and takes every chance to tell her friends her mom is an artist.

Poole will be exhibiting her work at the Common Ground Fair on Sept. 25-27. Her studio is open by appointment or chance for the rest of the season. For more examples of Poole’s work, visit ecouturetextilestudio.com.

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