Strand and Stem, a multi-artist exhibit at Tower Hill

Strand and Stem will be on exhibit at Tower Hill Botanic Garden until Sept. 17.

By Vancouver artist Lesley Richmond.

Our lives are full of fabric, from the clothes on our backs to the couches in our homes. Many of the fibers and dyes used to make fabric come from plants. The artists in the Strand and Stem exhibit – Mafalda Silva, Laura Hacker, Lesley Richmond, Betty Busby, Alice Fox – explore the connections between plants and textiles.

Visitors peruse works by Massachusetts artist Laura Hacker and others.

What plants are in the clothes you are wearing? Cotton is the principal plant used for clothing. Artificial textile fibers, such as rayon, are manufactured mainly from cellulose, which is found in the cell walls of plants. Linen comes from the flax plant.

Art by Mafalda Silva from Toronto.

Some of the dyes used to color cloth also come from plants. A garden for natural dyes could include Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) for red, Madder (Rubia tinctorum) for orange, Hollyhocks (Alcea) for yellow, Sunflower (Helianthus) for green, and Woad (Isatis tinctoria) for blue. You can make simple dyes by chopping and boiling parts of these plants in water. Several artists in this exhibit dye their own fabric or threads using plant-based dyes.

By British artist Alice Fox.

Though all the artists in this exhibit, which runs until Sept. 17 in the Milton Gallery at Tower Hill, work within the medium of fiber art, each uses these fibers in surprising ways. With a range of materials and techniques, these artists create a bridge between fibers and the plants they came from.