Chelsea Cafe Project #20

Contemporary Experiments with Natural Dye Print

Lara Mantell

Wednesday 13 April – Friday 13 May 2016


Display #20 provides an insight into the range of textile work through exploring screen-printing with natural dye extracts. This is an on-going project produced by Lara Mantell, that considers a variety of different, more sustainable and environmental practices in the print and dye workshop at Chelsea College of Arts.

The textiles on display are experimental prints undertaken to analyse how the natural dyes react to each other, to the fabric, and to auxiliary chemicals. Lara designed the prints, using overlays of drawings inspired by artworks and the Italian landscape, as well as cut-paper stencils.

Eight natural dye extracts have been used in this work; cutch, madder, weld, lac, chloropyllin, fustic, logwood and brazilwood. Fabric was mordanted prior to printing with either alum or aluminium acetate. Mordant refers to the substance used to set dyes on fabrics. Each dye extract has been given a unique print design; this allows the dominant dye extract to be identified in an experimental sample.

Dye colours may change depending upon the type of fabric they have been printed onto. Colour can be altered by additions of other natural dyes, or by using colour modifiers, for example:

Iron – saddens and darkens

Citric acid – brightens or discharges

Cream of tartar – brightens and lightens.

Although not displayed here, a collection of hanging fabric scrolls have been made in conjunction with the experimental prints. These are workbooks showing different dye mixtures and concentrations. The scrolls now form part of a unique teaching resource in the textiles department for natural dye printing.

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About the designer

Lara Mantell is a printed textile designer, with a degree in Fashion and Textile Design with Business Studies from the University of Brighton. Lara works as a Specialist Print and Dye technician on the BA and MA Textile courses at Chelsea College of Arts. An experienced teacher of drawing and textile design, Lara has taught short courses at Chelsea and other London colleges for many years. With an extensive repertoire of print and design knowledge and an interest in sustainable practice, she successfully researches contemporary methods for screen printing with natural dyes. The pieces on show are experimental prints; part of a series that are currently informing and shaping Lara’s professional practice.