Allie, we are so delighted to feature you on the LINNÉ spotlight! Tell us about yourself, what led you to start Rooted Botanics?
Rooted Botanics is the synergy of ethnobotany, traditional craft and art. A business that not only sells clothing, but tells a story about the historic culture of natural dyes and the plants that are all around us. Rooted started with a yearning to create a lifestyle that could support a long term dream. It started with the idea of bringing new life to vintage clothing through plant dyes, but continues to evolve into so much more. Having so much passion for a craft that is rooted in so much history and culture has driven me to step into my role as not only an artist, but as a teacher as well. Through continuous learning, observation, and experimentation, my art has transformed into many mediums such as flower pressing, paint making from plants, dyeing with native plants, mushroom dyeing, and so much more!
Have you always been interested in botany and the natural world?
Yes! The flowers, trees, oceans & mountains are the epicenter of my world in which I revolve around. Choosing this path in plant dyes isn’t just because I loved the art of it, it’s because I get to work with the plants intimately every single day! This has inspired me to deepen my plant knowledge, therefore I’ve been keeping a field journal for the past year and a half which is full of pressed flowers and their scientific names, as well as a record of the season around me.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us a bit more about the history of natural plant dyes?
Natural dyeing is the practice of applying color to textiles using only color found from the natural world - think flowers, barks, leaves, insects, and even mollusks! This is a craft that dates back thousands of years and has deep roots in indigenous cultures globally. Certain plants and color palettes were cultivated in regions where those plants and materials are found locally, and are often still cultivated in those same regions to this very day. It was only less than 200 years ago in the 1850’s when the emergence of synthetic dyes came about. There are many types of synthetic dyes in circulation, many of which are toxic to our health and our planet. Plant dyes are a much safer and more sustainable alternative for those who are able to apply these methods.
Have you always been interested in plant dyes?
I started exploring plant dyeing when I was in design school! I was starting my senior thesis, which involved designing and sewing a 6 pieces collection. I was in love with the idea of creating clothes but disturbed by the realities of harm the fashion industry has on the environment. This led me to research sustainable modelties in design & that is when I came across plant dyes! I fell in love with it immediately and spent the rest of the year playing with different color possibilities. Since then it has always had a place in my heart and eventually became the thing that I now devote my life to.
Where do you source and forage the plant dyes along with the garments you use?
Because so many of the tried-and-true dye plants are native to different countries all over the world, I’m obviously unable to forage or grow these plants ourselves. Long term, the goal as a business is to work directly with small farmers all over the world to source these materials rather than relying on a middle man. Until then, I’m working with Maiwa and Botanical colors, two companies I trust to source their products both ethically and sustainably.
In terms of foraging, I do have a beautiful flower garden that I primarily use for our beautiful bundle dyed garments. I’m also fortunate to live in a place that has an abundance of natural color in the way of leaves, flowers, barks, and plant dye’s favorite dye bug, cochineal!
Tell us about the process of naturally dying and flower pressing your garments?
There are quite a few steps in the natural dye process. I scour, mordant, and extract all of our dye materials myself. It’s a fun process filled with pots, powders, barks, stirring sticks, and lots of dedication and experimentation.
Flower pressing is one of my favorite methods of dyeing right now! I utilize a technique called bundle dyeing/eco-printing, which involves taking pressed flowers, stylistically arranging them on the mordanted garment, and rolling & steaming to press the flowers permanently on the fabric! The best part of the process is unrolling the piece and picking the flowers off to see the fine detail it left behind!
How do the seasons impact your current collections?
I work in tandem with the seasons and launch each collection on every Full or New Moon each month. This is a practice that helps keep me grounded during these seemingly always busy times. I am also working with the availability of seasonal materials now more than ever! The dye plants available in our local mountains are very dependent on what season we’re in. Fall is abundant with walnut leaves, acorns, and our more tannin heavy plants, while spring is full of flowers for dyeing and pressing. In the spring & summer I try to save as many flowers as possible so they can be used for the winter months ahead.
Beyond our plant-based skincare, what is one way you recommend our community members connect with plants and the natural world?
I think the best way to connect with the plants and natural world is to get out and enjoy her! Spend some time outside with your local flora and fauna. Get to know and enjoy the native plants growing in your home, and witness them in each season. Pay attention to the weather and life around you as the seasons come and go. Simply existing outside can be a beautiful practice in staying present as well as finding connection with the natural world.
What do you have in store for Rooted Botanics in 2023?
I am so excited for everything we have planned ahead, and everything that we have yet to know and plan. In 2023 we will have more workshops available both online and in person for people to learn this beautiful craft! We will also be expanding our color palette and materials we work with, as I am committed to learning and experimenting more with plants that don’t have as much readily available research and information. We’ll also be offering more plant dyed small goods and continue making our paints made from plants! The ideas are flowing and I am excited to keep creating and growing this little business of mine!