CARRIE CRAWFORD | MINERAL WORKSHOP | West Marin
On a busy street in Fairfax, Carrie Crawford's studio occupies an old commercial storefront down the block from a liquor store and antique shop. The facade of floor-to-ceiling windows welcomes daylight into the room’s long expanse. Faint blue shoe-prints emerge from the greenish concrete floor, its cracks filled with oxidized indigo. White curtains hang loosely across from cotton sheets dyed with asymmetric streaks of indigo and beige from oak galls. With a breeze flowing through the swaying fabrics, what might otherwise feel like a lifeless concrete box is instead a refreshing workspace.
“Indigo isn’t easy to work with—its unconventional characteristics create a challenging process. According to Carrie, satisfactory results have to be “coaxed out of the plant.” As a result, Carrie works not only as an artist, but also as a scientist, manipulating her medium on a microbial level.”
Carrie is experienced in the production of industrial textiles, though she prefers working with her hands and using natural dyes and fibers. With a background in textile and print design, she still relies on some commercial and industrial work to support herself. Previously, she spent most of her time at a computer, creating small images by hand and digitally transforming them for industrial use. Dissatisfied with investing so much creative energy into digital projects, she decided to start working with “completely analog” elements. Experiments in dyeing textiles with natural ingredients developed into an obsession with the subtle complexities of working with indigo.
Indigo isn’t easy to work with—its unconventional characteristics create a challenging process. According to Carrie, satisfactory results have to be “coaxed out of the plant.” As a result, Carrie works not only as an artist, but also as a scientist, manipulating her medium on a microbial level. Two of the half-dozen dye vats in her studio are alive with fermenting indigo. She experiments with temperature control using an aquarium thermometer and notes the divergent reactions in the dyes when they are fed fruit instead of simple sugar.
After Carrie studied aerial photography, she became inspired by locations where saltwater and freshwater merged, as well as areas with distinct thermal qualities. She began mimicking the images using cotton sheets as her canvas. Her topography canvases are intersections of her artistic vision and the fabric’s spontaneous reaction to the dye. She refers to this process as “painting with something that wasn’t meant to be used for painting,” and applies color with dips instead of strokes, folding and binding fabric to create patterns and areas of heavier dye saturation. Though her desired results aren’t always achieved, the unknown outcome of each dye round influences her approach to developing the design. Perhaps that is the key to the craft of dyeing: adapting to surprise, improvising, and making art along the way.