Our Natural Dye Journey
As we often say, we have always wanted to make product that deserves to exist. We’ve discovered over the years though, that this is much easier said than done. The hurdles in the way of those two goals are immense, and quite unexpected. You would think you could just choose a path and that would be that, but it’s not quite so simple.
People are our first priority at JOYN. Everything comes second to people. Mel, our founder, would say the same thing. If you see her talking about those who work at JOYN, that’s when you see her face light up. People first, always. From the beginning that is what we’ve been all about. That’s the first layer.
The second layer is what those people are interacting with and what they’re being exposed to. What do their hands touch? That's just as important. If we care about people, we have to care about what they touch, what materials they use, how it impacts their health, their local environment.
And the third layer is how it impacts the environment as a whole, our country, then the different places our product goes to. We feel the weight of that responsibility daily. We have to look beyond our own borders, in order to really make an impact.
We found the process of natural dye to be so poetic. We always tend to look for some deeper meaning behind everything, and it’s not hard to find a deeper meaning when interacting with dyes made directly from nature. The process is stunning. One of the most poetic things we came to discover, is that natural dye will react differently to a different environment. The very same product that travels across India, will, over time look different to a product that travels to say the USA or the UK or Australia.
Another poetic aspect of this process is the way natural dye does in fact change. It’s alive in many ways, just like the natural sources it comes from. It changes colour over time, which in our current day has been seen as a negative thing, but we view it as anything but. It tells a story. Each of our naturally dyed products holds a different story, completely unique to its owner. How the product is carried, kept, and where it goes will show up on the outside, like a beautiful story. See? It’s poetry.
A lot of the current narrative we see is about slowing down, being grounded, connected, embodied. We find that natural dye really encompasses all of these things. It’s a slow process. First you take from nature; flowers, plants, natural things that have been tried and tested over time, and even this is an art. It may seem obvious what colour a certain plant would produce and it doesn’t come out at all as you may expect. Then you break it down into tiny pieces. You dry it. You boil it. You add some magic natural components to it so that it reacts a certain way. You soak your cloth in the dye, getting your hands into it, letting the sediment touch every part of the fabric. It’s so ancient, so tactile. There’s no other way to describe it other than that it just feels right. Like the right thing to do.
The other aspect of this process, and probably why it’s not as widely practiced as you’d hope, is that slow can mean clunky and awkward and frustrating. It can mean expensive. Expensive is something very much less poetic than the actual process of natural dye, but it’s a reality. You have to weigh up the challenge of paying people a fair wage, finding materials that are good for them to work with, and having people willing to spend money on that product. This is a delicate dance. The three have to work well to strike a perfect balance. Sometimes you take a leap, even if it’s a small one, and in our case we’re really glad we did.
At the end of the day that’s what it boils down to. What is the right thing for us to do? For people, for our world. Right now for us, this is it. It fits. And as we grow in this process, as we learn and grow and make mistakes, we hope you’ll join us. We are forever grateful to you for coming along with us on yet another JOYN adventure.