WINNER ‘Progress toward circularity’ Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2023

Natural Dyeing with Emma Chow

Artist Emma Chow takes inspiration from nature and a sense of responsibility to the earth in her enigmatic dyed works.

We first met Emma Chow last year at the hub where she took away silk and linen for experimentation with natural dyes. Emma creates pieces that bring nature into people's everyday spaces, helping us reconnect with our inner and outer nature, and helping us remember that we are nature.

In an effort to make 100% circular art, she uses natural fibres and employs flowers and food scraps to dye them. Her dye baths use food scraps like onion peels, avocado skins, and water from soaking black beans. Her favourite natural dye ingredient to use is flowers, collecting fallen petals during walks and then using a flower bundle dyeing technique to infuse the fibre with botanical pigment, the energy of the plant and the place where it grew.

The end of one cycle becomes the start of another, like death and rebirth. This theme has been a through-line of the past year of Emma's life. Beginning with a journey of burnout-recovery that initiated in South and Central America (June 2022), where her relationship with plants and nature deepened, Emma committed herself to a new era of art-making. She traded in traditional painting materials for elements borrowed from nature.

Her creative process is one of reconnecting with nature, sharing its essence through art, and healing wounds of searching for belonging as a bi-racial being. Emma was drawn to working with silk especially, as it's a fibre from her Chinese ancestry on her father's side, paired with flowers and dyes from England, which represents her mother's side.

Emma was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, has lived in the Isle of Wight for the past 5 years, and dedicates her career to serving nature, most recently leading the Ellen McArthur Foundation food initiative (2018-2022).

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