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Friday, January 2, 2015

First Friday: Garner Blue - Artfully Dyed

There is no better way to start 2015 than with Lisa Garner of Garner Blue. As you will find out, this woman's love for art and people is impacting her Tennessee community in big, thoughtful ways. In the last couple of years Lisa has managed to create CAMP (a retreat of sorts that Lisa and friend Keely created for other creatives/makers - Curating Artisans Methods and Provisions) and from that, her own small business. All the while cultivating relationships with other creatives to help their small businesses grow thanks to her pop-up shop. Lisa will tell you that she hasn't done all of this on her own. And she hasn't. I hope to introduce you to her partner in crime, Mrs. Keely Beasley soon. However, Lisa cannot give all of the credit to Keely. 

Jackson, TN is beginning to take notice of Lisa and Garner Blue. She recently began working at theCo. in Jackson and is able to walk alongside other creatives, learning and cultivating skills. 

Without further adieu I want to introduce Lisa of Garner Blue....

PP: What made you decide to try your hand at dyeing? 

GB: Dying with indigo specifically was one of the methods Keely and I decided we wanted to cover at CAMP. It's a skill that's beyond  a simple project but attainable enough to cover some basics at the CAMP weekend. I learned as much as I could about it in preparation to teach everyone the method. I discovered I really enjoyed the process and kept going beyond CAMP.

PP: Why indigo?

GB: Hmmm, there is just something about indigo that (at least in my mind) sets it apart from other dyes. It's one of the oldest natural dyes and has a long history throughout many cultures. Prior to working with it, I associated indigo with denim and while i still do -- i love using to create more feminine items with natural fibers.

PP: Did you create your own dye? What is it made from? Is this a secret? 

GB: I'm using a pre-reduced indigo to create the dye vat. It's not exactly a secret, but just more of a chemical formula. There are a bunch of other factors that effect the vat-- temperature, agitation and more. I still have a TON to learn about it and I'm excited to learn more. 

PP: Do you typically try to dye a lot of items at once or do you try to do smaller batches? 

GB: I dye in small batches-- it depends on what I need more of at the time but I would say one batch normally yields a few batches of napkins, and about dozen and a half scarves/neckerchiefs. 

PP: What drew you to dyeing scarves and earrings? Why did you want to dye wearable pieces? 

GB: Scarves are a really easy way to transform an outfit, they can make it feel more complete, and i like offering different textures of scarf-- woven cotton to silk. I actually went from scarves and neckerchiefs to vintage napkins. I love using cloth napkins-- they make any meal feel more legit and so it seemed natural to do napkins and dying vintage textiles gives me an opportunity to repurpose. Next I made indigo watercolors-- I attached a few to canvases and stitched on a few of them to add to the composition. Next I created the BlueBelly llama -- with plans to make a baby version and some other animals as well. Earrings were next and they came from wanting to make a small accessory--something that would add just a bit of indigo to an outfit. My two latest things are the Woven Cotton Cocoon and the Kimono -- more wearables :). The Cocoon is a piece that you slip your arms in and then it loosely hangs from your shoulders, creating sleeves and a back (I'm really still in the process of determining how I want to describe these guys :). One other neat thing about the Cocoon is that while it is a cover/jacket of sorts, it also can convert to a scarf. The kimono is also made with lightweight woven cotton-- it has long sleeves and fringe trim. I'm pretty pumped about those guys :)

PP: Is any one piece exactly alike? 

GB: Patterns can be similar, but nothing is exact. While that doesn't serve me well for trying to expand, it's working great right now. 

PP: Do you ever try to recreate a dye pattern to match other items you love? 

GB: I do experiment with the patterns a lot-- the method of dying that I'm doing is a resist-dyed method, based on an ancient shibori method with some modern additions. Cloth shaped by these methods is secured in a number of ways, such as binding and knotting. Some objects i use to create the patterns are rocks, wooden blocks, cassette tapes, custom wood & acrylic cuts and even wooden clothespins. 


PP: Is there anything special about the fabrics you use? 

GB: one of my woven cotton fabrics come from a couple supported through IOI they have a program where they give small business loans to Ethiopian people and one of my friends works with their organization and she connected me to this couple that weaves cotton. So, my woven cotton circle scarves and swaddling blankets come from them which feels pretty great--knowing that that I'm able to directly help support their craft. 

PP: Tell us about your recent partnership with Madewell. 

GB: The event with Madewell was a one-day partner-event. Madewell has them pretty regularly-- they bring in local artisans and have them set-up in store. They don't take a cut of what the artists sell, so it's pretty much a win win :). My event was fun-- it was great to talk with people a bit more about my process as they were looking through everything. Those conversations happen pretty naturally at handmade markets, but in this retail setting i think people appreciated getting to hear from someone making.

PP: We loved the popup shop. Can we look forward to any more in the future? 

GB: Yes! We're hoping to stick with the 3 per year-- one in the Spring, prior to Mother's Day, a second in the Summer, prior to Father's Day and the third on small business saturday

PP: Tell me a little about theCo in Jackson. What is your roll there? 

GB: theCO feels like a lot to sum up in a small paragraph but basically we are a business accelerator, so we are working with start-ups and existing businesses to help push their concepts forward-- we have a co-working space and a makerspace with 3D printers, a laser cutter/etcher, CNC router and loads of other industrial type tools for prototyping as well as tinkering. My title is Director of Operations and I do everything from programing, some accounting, graphic design, marketing--you name it. For a lot of the members, and even Jacksonians that aren't members, there is just something about theCO that feels special-- it feels like it's the start of something really great around here. One of my favorite monthly events we host is A.M. Creative-- it's a gathering time for anyone who would define them self as a creative person. It's a meeting meant to encourage all that attend-- so they leave feeling more motivated to create. Each month we hear from someone in the area-- just a bit more about their craft. I actually got a bit sentimental at the last one as I was introducing Joy Moore to share about her poetry-- the week before (we do monthly events each Tuesday for all the groups theCO caters to--Maker's CO:llective, CO:llaborate - Taking Care of Your Businesses and CO:de) we'd had some folks around the bar (that's where these Tuesday events are centered around) talking about developing an app for ibeacon technology around theCO-- it just feels really great getting to connect all of these pockets of interesting people.

Find more fun info and updates on Instagram (@lougarner or #garnerblue) and check her Journal for more info and updates as events and craft shows arise. You can expect to find her at events in Memphis and Nashville in addition to her hometown of Jackson. 

Lisa Garner is designer/maker/owner of Garner Blue. Using indigo dye, she works in small batches with natural fabrics, repurposed textiles and watercolor paper.  She uses river rocks, wood blocks, sticks, old cassette tapes and more to create the resists that yield patterns that surprise her every time she unwraps a newly dyed piece. Garner Blue operates out of the tiny brick home she shares with her musician husband Joe (aka The Kernal) and their little pup Louvin, on a lazy street in Jackson, Tennessee.


Photo Credits: Julia Hembree

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