Dyer’s Takeover: Kendall Clarke

What is your favourite dye?

If I really have to choose a favourite, I’d say Hypericum perforatum.

Why do you like working with Hypericum perforatum?

It’s a plant that grows in my garden, by the roadside, by the canal, and it seems that no matter how many flowers you pick, there are always more the next day, and the day after. The plant itself is a bit straggly, with long woody stems, but it flowers prolifically and for quite a few weeks. I love the deep rich yellow of the flowers, but I also love the surprising dusky pink they yield as a dye colour. I even like the fact that it’s quite fiddly to pick – because the flowers open at different times, you have to pinch off each individual open flower, leaving the unopened ones for the coming days. It would drive some people mad, but I enjoy the way it slows you down, and the whole process becomes absorbing and quite relaxing. The dyeing process is straightforward – simmer the flower heads for 45 mins- 1 hour, and then strain off the liquid. Use this to dye alum-mordanted fibres – simmering again for a further 45 mins to 1 hour. Use equal weight of dye stuff to dye fibres.

How does Ethel Mairet inspire you?

Who wouldn’t admire a woman that dealt with ‘green vitriol’, and ‘sour water’, and instructed the dyer to ‘scour the cotton in a lixivium of wood ashes’? But it is her redoubtable ‘the way to beauty is not by the broad and easy road: it is along difficult and adventurous paths’ that most inspires me in my practice. It is a principle echoed in the work of a contemporary role model, Japanese textile designer Reiko Sudo of Nuno corporation. An experimental approach to making, with its inherent opportunities for learning and discovering, is what motivated me as a maker.