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Lost in Fiber | Interview | Cara Marie Piazza

Posted on: Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cara Marie Piazza natural dye collaboration with Loup Charmant

This is the second installment in an ongoing series of interviews with Lost in Fiber materials contributors. In the case of Brooklyn-based natural dyer and textile designer, Cara Marie Piazza, I was curious to learn more about the range of objects that Cara artfully surrounds herself with, her innovative methods of foraging and exploring color, and the creative ways that she resourcefully navigates her world.

AD: Might you share five objects or artifacts that you currently have in your studio or home – particularly as forms that you feel resonate with your studio work and current investigations?

CM: Dried flowers and seed pods; the book Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol Lewitt; a Pyrite rock formation; wood blocks; and a Tuareg medallion from a recent trip to Marrakech.

AD:  Do you use social media on a daily basis and if so, do you feel that is helps you to build community in ways that non-virtual interaction does not? That is, do you feel that you have 'virtual friends' who are essential to your creative community? How does this inform your work day-to-day, if at all?

CM: I mainly use Instagram, and I feed my posts from there to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I definitely can say that I have found a virtual community through it. I've made connections that never would have happened otherwise, many of which have blossomed into real world dialogues and exchanges! For example, through Instagram I was introduced to Belinda Evans (aka 'iamalchemy' on Instagram), and through a mutual appreciation of our feeds decided to do a materials swap. Belinda sent me Eucalyptus to dye with; I sent her my fabric scraps for her weavings. I never would have met Belinda otherwise, as she lives all the way in Australia. A simple mention from her also enhanced my social media presence over there. Another (like-minded) person I recently met through Instagram was Briar Winters of Marble & Milkweed apothecary. I had a lovely studio visit with her just last month.

Dyed textile 'scraps' from Cara Marie Piazza on the clothesline in Sofia

I (essentially) use Instagram to keep my finger on the pulse, but I also try to maintain a certain detachment. I take the flâneur's approach into seeking inspiration. Absorbing myself too much in social media can be distracting. My best ideas come when I turn off and let my surroundings do the work for me.

AD: What is your idea of the perfect garden, rural, urban or somewhere in between?

CM: It would be a combination of an industrial urban ruin and and an overgrown English garden – probably sprinkled with a few of the mushroom trees from Ferngully. The idea of a retrofitted, dilapidated old industrial building overgrown with floral goodness really gets me going. If we're dreaming big here, I would love to create a combination vertical farm and natural dye processing plant within an industrial frame. Think: a wild garden inside the walls of MoMA.

Dye bundles waiting to be unwrapped in Cara's studio

AD: As a natural dyer, botanical lover, and food-waste alchemist, is there a recipe of sorts that you feel yields the perfect hue? or rather what vat or dye bundle has surprised you the most in the past?

CM: I am a devoted hollyhock user (also known as Mallow blossoms). I can yield anything from a gentle lavender to a striking turquoise with it. Playing with different chemical assists and pots of varying metal bases affect the hue yielded. The options are quite endless.

AD: Do you have any future collaborations in the works, i.e. news that you are willing to share in terms of partnerships with new designers or organizations?

CM: I do ... stay tuned for my future collaboration with Alice Waese. We are working on her first capsule collection that will be presented in Paris this September for SS15. 

AD: If you could collaborate with any (fashion) designer in history, who would you want to partner with and what sort of theme would you ideally work with or cultivate?

Rei Kawakubo for COMME des GARÇONS 2009 via here

CM: Rei Kawakubo, the godmother of deconstructed fashion. Although my work has an ethereal bohemian vibe, I am more inclined towards the COMME des GARÇONS aesthetic. Her unbridled approach to design and ideas of body shape is truly inspiring, and I believe the dichotomy of natural color mixed with her structural aesthetic might yield something really special.

Cara's tools laid out in ritualistic fashion in her Gowanus Canal studio

AD: Is there a tool from the past that you feel needs to be re-introduced? Or rather, is there a 'modified tool' that you think would make your creative life more complete?

CM: In my practice I find I have all the tools I need. I can get slightly primitive with my mixing sticks; I use driftwood as I like the way the dyes stain them. They look like mini totem poles. 

A 'slow creations' print from Sweden (on left) layered
with a botanically dyed textile 'scrap' from Cara Marie Piazza
on the Lost in Fiber work table in Sofia 

Wabi-Sabi beauty in Cara's studio via the Textile Art Center's blog

AD: What does 'slow' design or living mean to you?

CM: It means designing sustainably using materials that are sourced ethically, that are not harmful to people or the environment – and truthfully, it (also) means creating whenever the creative spirit moves you. Let your process dictate when and how your piece is sold. There is often more luxury and sensuality in an aged garment that is given the proper love it surely deserves. 

AD: If you could travel anywhere in the world over the next months, where would you go?

CM: I have a dream of apprenticing for an aging Shibori master in Japan, high up in the mountains – you know, the kind of place you see depicted in a kakejiku scroll painting. I have also been researching Wabi-Sabi, a Japanese design aesthetic centered around transience and imperfection. In natural dyeing, you are constantly confronted with (so-called) imperfections, and harnessing irregularity is what I find most enjoyable about my work. So, basically I want to go to Japan.

You can follow more inspiration from Cara's studio via her Tumblr 
and learn more about her collaborative events here.


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