Dyer’s Takeover: Jacqui Symons

What is your favourite dye?

Madder, of course!  Isn’t it everyones?  Jenny Dean calls it ‘the queen of dyes’ and with red being my favourite colour, it was always going to be my first choice.  I’ve been grappling with an indigo fruit vat for a while and whilst it is immensely satisfying to watch the blue tones develop, madder is just so easy, so reliable and so…red!

How do you work with madder?

I use a pretty standard recipe for dyeing with madder but one thing I have found that makes a huge amount of difference to dyeing cellulose fabrics and fibres is to use tannin.  I soak the fabric in a 10% WOF (weight of fibre) tannin solution made using locally-gathered oak galls and then mordant in alum.  As I’m a printmaker, I also make lake pigments from the exhausted dye baths which I then use to make printing inks.

How does Ethel Mairet inspire you?

As a big fan of creating sample cards and swatch books of the dye experiments and tests I have done, I find Ethel Mairet’s swatch books and records particularly inspiring.  I’m not a weaver like her but still enjoy looking at her fabrics and the colours she achieved using natural dyes.  At some point this year, I’m hoping I’ll be able to look at them in person – exciting!