Partnering with Blue Moon Rodeo by Tara Warkentin to create a line of indigo tie-dye jumpsuits and dresses has been a dream! We are thrilled to partner with an artist who shares our value for sustainability and uses all natural dyes. We sat down with Tara to learn more about her brand and journey to creating this bespoke line for Happy French Gang.
It’s so great to chat with you today Tara! Can you start by telling me about yourself and your work?
I grew up on Cortes Island, on the west coast of British Columbia. It’s a very tiny island full of vivid color. There’s a beautiful blue ocean that’s very clean and big cedars. I didn’t call myself an artist or have a steady art practice until last fall. I started dying a little over a year ago as a pandemic project. I was really drawn to natural dyeing with plants. So I started experimenting with things around my kitchen and around my yard. At this point, I was living in Tocino and so there was lots of foliage and seaweed. I started mixing up lots of pots in my little kitchen. I started dyeing so much! And I found that having an art practice was very important to me.
I wanted to start dyeing with socks and give them away. So I bought a whole bunch of socks off of Amazon. A big part of life here in Tocino is surf and skate culture. So I felt these crew socks really fit within the place. I had images of walking to the beach with no shoes, just socks, and walking into the water. But it was so soul sucking to buy hundreds of dollars worth of socks off of Amazon. It just didn’t feel good, and the socks themselves were not very nice. So I have since found a great sock supplier and am now dyeing beautiful organic socks!
What made you reach out to Happy French Gang?
I didn’t want to buy hundreds of yards of beautiful linen that was going to sit in my closet because I’m not a seamstress. So I wrote to Sandra asking if I could tie dye some clothes for Happy French Gang, and didn’t expect to hear from her. Surprisingly, she was really into it! It was really moving that she would just trust me, this random girl in BC who wanted to dye her beautiful clothes. When the box arrived I opened it up I thought, “Oh my goodness, these are so lovely! How can I dye them?” And of course in the natural dyeing process, especially with indigo, things can go in unpredicted directions. But that’s part of the fun! The other special thing about making the pieces for Happy French Gang was they were made at a happy time in my life. I was around people who I was really fond of while stitching the pieces. I carried them everywhere in my big basket with me. I’m very excited that people are going to be wearing them. I hope they feel these happy memories stitched into them. That’s the beauty of hand made things. The fabric itself has a story already woven into it. It feels really special that they are from a time in my life which was full of love and full of making things while moving slowly.
I love that concept of those happy memories being stitched into them! I’m curious, why indigo in particular?
Good question! I’ve had to think about this myself. It started with indigo because I love the color. It felt like the right color for the place I’m living where the ocean and the rocks are dark blue and gray. I also began to dye with indigo because you don’t need a lot of different plant extracts. It’s a very organic process done all by touch. When you take the pieces out of the vat, they’re all yellow. When it reacts with oxygen, that's when it turns blue. It’s a magical process. Recently I’ve been getting into dyeing with other plant extracts. I’ve got all these beautiful jars of marigold petals, cochineal, and henna. They’re beautiful colors, but indigo is a predictable color. There’s also a very old tradition of dyeing with indigo. It’s really fun to read about those techniques and try them myself. You can tap into these old traditions where there were also wild waves of the ocean.
It's wonderful that you’re connected and inspired by the historical and global legacy of indigo. What drew you to all natural dyes?
It is a very embodied practice to work with natural things because you don’t have to worry about protecting your body from the dyes. It can be more a part of my life as opposed to having to take place in a studio. The other thing that drew me to natural dyes is that I can collect many of the pigments from where I live. Like the other day I was with some really young children for work and they helped me to collect scotch broom flowers.We picked lots and then we dyed with them.
And a little shoutout to Maiwa, which is a mother daughter run business run in Vancouver that I get most of my dye materials and some of my textiles from. They’re so great! I have called them so many times when I’ve been in the middle of dyeing and something’s gone wrong. They’ve been so helpful!
This sounds like a community supported art practice with the kids you dye with at work and Maiwa. There’s a lot of loving hands that are going into making these pieces.
Oh, totally! When you have prepared an indigo batch you can put a lot of pieces in it. Once I’ve already dyed all my pieces I want to, I call up friends and tell them to come by and bring something white. They then will come by and we have this task to do with our hands and senses. And then you have time together while you’re waiting. It feels very community supported. One reason I learned to dye was to have something to trade and give. I recently stayed at a family friend’s house for a few days. It was such a blessing, and buying a bottle of wine didn’t feel like an appropriate kind of gift. So to bring something that I made and to have something to have to give from my heart that I feel is worth quite a bit. It feels really good to have something like that to give that is full of love from my hands and will hold them.
Any other projects coming up?
I’m excited because a friend of mine owns a shop called ___ that is starting to collaborate with other brands. She has me making socks for her, and I’ve been experimenting with colors that are not blue. I’ve also been experimenting with wraps. I haven’t been selling them because I’ve been giving them away. I can’t make them fast enough to sell! I have been into the color yellow recently, so I’ve been dyeing them with marigolds. It made me think of when this really wise woman once said, “When you’re grieving or feeling something immensely, wrap yourself in a piece of cloth. If you pull it quite tight, you can feel really held.” And it really works! So I like to give these wraps to people who I would like to hold. It’s exciting to experiment with more colors and types of cloth and how it can practically touch people’s lives.
Thank you for sharing about what has made this project so meaningful. We’re so excited for the launch!
This has been so great! I want to go and make a big vat now!
Follow Tara at @bluemoonrodeo on Instagram.
Take a look at the 10 pieces she dyed right HERE!