We spend a lot of time focusing on the quality of our food — is it organic? local? grass fed? non-GMO? — but an area of life we often overlook when trying to be a more conscious consumer is our clothing. Not only is it important to buy clothes made locally, but certain fabrics are better than others (did you know Rayon is made of plastic?) and the dying process can be environmentally detrimental as well. Teacher, artist, printmaker and clothing designer Julie Goldstein is aware of all of this and she’s working to right the wrongs with her clothing line SWM With Me. We caught up with her for some details on natural dyes and why more people aren’t doing it.
How long have you been making woodcuts?
I have been making woodcuts since college. I carved my first block in 1995 and haven’t stopped since!
What spurred the transition into apparel?
In 2000, I was teaching high school as an art teacher, when I taught my class how to carve and print woodblocks, all of the students asked if they could print on shirts. I brought in one of my woodcuts to demonstrate how to print onto cotton tees, and thought.. hmm this is a good idea. I resigned from teaching in 2004 and started my line “Perfect” it was a hand-dyed and printed tee line for women and children. When our surf shop Pine burned down in 2008, so did my brand, since my studio was in the back of the shop. It has taken me 6 years to finally re-launch a clothing line. This time I am focusing on all natural dyed garments, hand made in California and functional hand made accessories.
Why natural dyes?
I decided to use natural dyes for a few different reasons. First of all, I was pregnant when I was designing for this line. I did not want to be around anything that was toxic. My assistant Abe and I researched our options. Abe created a few different dye baths using turmeric, onion and woad. I was hooked. The colors are just beautiful and so natural. I love the idea of using elements from nature and basically right from the kitchen!!
What is different about this dye?
Natural dyes are different because they are recycled vegetables and spices. Each batch is different depending on how new or old the vegetable. That is what I love about the natural dyes, they truly are hand dyed, each piece is dipped in separately and each dye bath is prepared differently. Each garment is a one of a kind.
Why aren’t more people using this technique? Is there any concern about fading over time?
I have artisans that dye for me, they are professionals and study the art of natural dyes. This technique is a true art form, it is very tedious and time consuming. I love working with fiber artists because as a printmaker we appreciate repetition and production. Not many people have the patience for this type of process. For me, it is well worth the wait, it is art!
The fading may occur, it depends on the vegetable or spice. We tested our garments and so far so good!
How are you getting the word out about your brand?
Right now, I am using social media as a tool to help spread the word. I also just had a solo art exhibition at the Ann Coen Gallery in New Jersey, we did a SWM product launch and added in a pop up shop for the apparel. My art and my brand go hand in hand and I want them to feed off of each other.
Where can people buy the products?
People can buy my product on my website www.swm.la
More from Julie Goldstein:
Art website: www.juliegoldstein1.com