DYEING FOR NATURE – CARA MARIE PIAZZA

When you think of New York City, the last thing that probably comes to mind is nature in all its intricate complexity. However, for New York born and bredå natural dyer and textile designer, Cara Piazza, it is nature that inspires her life and work. Cara exclusively uses organic and natural materials in her dyes, such as fruit rinds, spices, flower petals, blossoms and iron fillings, all of which are sourced ethically. Likewise, her textiles are all comprised of organic materials, such as cotton and bamboo fibres, and Ahimsa and Peace grade silks.

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In Junkies Issue 10, we caught up with one of New York’s hottest designers to find out why she refuses to compromise in this fast fashion world.

Cara uses various dyeing techniques including ancient methods such as Itajime shibori.

Sustainability and ethical production are key aspects of Cara’s creative design. Her designs are highly sought after and the Junkies team was excited to learn more about the craft and inspirations of one of New York City’s most exciting young designers. 

Tell us a little bit about your background and journey into art, design and the textile world.

I grew up in New York City where my first love of nature came from being fascinated with how, despite her concrete cages, she would always find her way through the cracks. I went to university in London at the Chelsea College of Art and Design where I studied textiles and first came in contact with natural dyes through a workshop in my final year. After discovering the magic I dedicated my thesis to the profession and haven’t looked back since.

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We love how your work features flower petals which are wilting and dying, and then you create a passage of transformation for them, enabling them to be part of something new again. You must feel privileged to be the alchemist behind this process. Would you agree?

Of course, I tease that I am a hospice for plants. I help to usher them into a new existence which is one of the highest compliments I can receive from the flowers.

Tell us about the ancient Itajime shibori techniques that you use and their origins?

I try to adapt different Itajime patterns and wood block techniques onto my fabrics. I started predominantly experimenting with shibori and adding my own spin to simple age old techniques.

You are obviously passionate about sustainability, and this is evident in your work. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

I fully subscribe to the holistic philosophy of everything in life being cyclical and of a whole. We all affect one another and life on earth is part of a system: sustainability shouldn’t be a fad, or a consumer trend, but inherent to the way we all live our lives.

From where do you source your fabrics and the materials for your natural dyes?

I try to work predominantly with ethical and sustainable fair-trade wholesalers, and my dye stuffs I forage, receive recycled from florists or restaurants, or from online providers such as botanicalcolors.com.

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Tell our readers about your wedding robes and the inspiration behind them.

I offer a Bridal service where I transform wedding bouquets and arrangements into a garment that will last a life time and immortalise that special day. Customers can send me their arrangements (dried if from overseas), and we offer a garment list with pieces from my label, Calyx, or clients can send in a personal garment of their own for me to dye.

What do you love most about working with nature to create?

The impermanence and randomness of the process. There is a chaos in nature that when harnessed creates truly beautiful and unique results.

Do you have an interest in the healing properties of the plants you are using?

Completely. Plants have healing and herbal properties that when soaked release their magic. Currently I am taking a herbalism course and working on creating a healing module that involves natural dyes.

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What other designers inspire you in life?

Currently I’m inspired by architects. There is something truly alchemical and mystical to me about people who create, design and architect spaces.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Sleep, read, dance and play. 

Do you enjoy teaching others your craft?

Tremendously. I find it extremely rewarding. Skill sharing and exchange is a beautiful experience. 

Can we find any of your work here in Australia and would you consider coming to Australia for a visit one day or maybe running some workshops? 

Currently I am not stocked in Australia, but I will be going online with my garments in August 2017. You can find my online classes onthecalyxapothecary.com, where I will soon stock my label. I would love to visit and teach one day! Hopefully in the near future!

Thank you Cara! xxx The Junkies Team

FashionSian Blohm