Five Questions With Tinta

Spring always calls for fresh linen – and a therapeutic pack away of that extra layer (or that electric blanket if you’re in Melbourne). We’re so excited to have Newcastle textile label Tinta debut at Finders Keepers Melbourne this spring, especially since we’ve become very fond of tie-dye! Combining botanical dyes and natural fibers, these one-of-a-kind textiles are highlighting the beauty of renewable, natural resources and we can’t get enough. We took five to ask Katie of Tinta five!

Tell us about Tinta and who’s behind the gorgeous hand-dyed textiles coming to Finders Keepers.

I’m a natural dyer living in Newcastle, but I’ve just recently moved here from Melbourne. I started coaxing colour from plants a few years ago and became completely hooked. I read all the books I could find, and I dyed every white piece of fabric I could get my hands on until I realised I wanted to make it my job. When I was pregnant with my son I knew I wanted to be able to work while I was at home with him and working for myself was something I’ve always wanted to do. I set up a home studio and Tinta was born around the same time my son was. My two babies!

Starting a business and having a baby at the same time was probably an insane thing to do, but I love the madness! I’m learning so much every day. Tinta is a one-woman business so it can be a lot to juggle, but I work with some incredible local manufacturers, like The Social Studio, who make my silk pillowcases.

What is it about your natural dyes that makes them so special?

There are so many things that make natural dyes magical. Each plant is slightly different depending on where it was grown and when it was harvested, and each colour varies depending on pH, soaking time, heat and how much plant material is used. This means that each colour and pattern is unique and every piece is one of a kind. Natural colour can be created from materials that are usually seen as waste, so it makes me look at the natural world in a completely different way.

Most of my dyes are made from food and floral waste that would otherwise end up in landfill. I commonly use avocado stones, onion skins, eucalyptus leaves, acorns and rose petals, but there are endless sources of natural colour.

Natural dyeing reminds us to try to see waste as a resource, because so much of what we throw away can have another life.

I also love that I can compost my spent materials, so everything I use goes back into the soil to grow something else.

Can you describe your workspace?

I love my new workspace! I’ve just moved into the backyard laundry of an old empty weatherboard house in Newcastle. The whole house is due to be knocked down sometime next year, so I’ve got the freedom to make as much mess as I want until then. My favourite part of the space is the old concrete double sink, which is a dyer’s dream.
I’ve got two big gas burners, a big grass lawn to prepare fabric on, and plenty of sunshine for drying. I’ve got no electricity, which is forcing me to think of more energy-efficient ways of working. I’m in heaven there and I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to make the space my own.

What’s your ultimate bedding colour combination for spring?

I’m biased, but I love the shades that can be made from avocado stones. The first is a beautiful blush pink which is the colour people usually associate with avocado dye, but the other is the most perfect silver that is created using iron as a modifier. These colours on silk are so lush. There’s a warmth about avocado dye that reminds me of those warmer days in springtime. I’m also really into tie-dye at the moment! It’s made a comeback and I’m pretty happy about that.

Sustainability is a major element to how you run your business from using natural dyes to consciously thinking about packaging. What advice do you have for small businesses looking to master sustainable practice?

I always try to imagine all the questions customers might ask me, and whether or not I would feel confident in telling them the truth. If I wouldn’t be proud to share the details of a particular aspect of my business, then I know it’s probably something I can do better. A business that is conscious about sustainability is usually proud of it, so they’re open and transparent about where and how their products are made.

When working with suppliers and manufacturers, look for as much information as possible, but if you can’t find the answers you’re after, don’t be afraid to ask. I think it’s really important for consumers to put pressure on businesses to do better for the environment. This pressure is the reason why things are changing in the fashion and textiles industry, but we’ve got a lot of work to do yet.

It can be more costly to switch to sustainable practices, but I think it ends up paying off. If you feel really good about what you’re making, it shows, and you’re likely to attract customers who really appreciate your authenticity and ethics. 

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