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March 4, 2021

Exploring eucalyptus dyes

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A wool silk scarf, leaf embossed, dyed with a variety of eucalyptus leaves.

Have you ever thought about the colour of eucalypts? For 25 years Mullumbimby textile artist Susan Fell Mclean has been exploring the use of dyes derived from eucalyptus leaves. Susan specialises in the use of shibori dyeing and the use of natural dyes and will be exhibiting her work at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery as their artist in residence.

I think people will be surprised at the amazing colours I achieve in these artworks, some of which are 3m in length,’ said Susan.

‘This is really exciting for me. The research I have been doing is groundbreaking. To date eucalyptus colour is a very little explored substance within the context of a growing, dynamic global enthusiasm for natural dyes.’

Susan regularly presents at international conferences on natural dyes and most recently at the UNESCO Madagascar Festival of Plants Ecology and Colour, where scientists, writers, dye experts, artists and traditional practitioners gathered to share latest research.

‘With the 19th century discovery of dyes derived from coal tar, much traditional knowledge was almost lost. In 1856 William Henry Perkins accidentally discovered the first aniline dye, and our aesthetics of colour was altered forever,’ said Susan.

‘Natural dyes generate both monetary and non monetary value and bear the seeds of a sustainable future. With increasing emphasis on the interconnectedness of the environment to social, cultural and economic dimensions of sustainable development, it is possible to envisage natural dyes as a central pillar for sustainable development.’

Susan’s exhibition will be on from August 3 to September 2. During her artists in residence she will conduct two workshops and gallery floor talks and a free public presentation as part of Northern Rivers Science Hub Art V Science Festival in the Quad on August 18.


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