So, I came across Maggie Pate's Instagram recently, and when I saw that she was making things with natural dyes, I was intrigued. But, when I saw these natural dyes were not just coming from normal things like beets (as I would use in the bakery) but they were coming from actual food waste, my mind was blown.
As someone who came from the fashion industry, before I started Dessert'D, I know that fashion is one of the worst industries for the environment. However, I can't deny that I love clothing and home goods. I do find better options whenever possible, but I know it may not be something that you think about on a daily basis, like food. Sure, you're thinking about your own body and what goes inside, but what about what you wear, what you sit on, what happens to the environment when other items in this world (besides food) are made.
Read my interview with Maggie, and you'll probably feel like you can be doing better in many other areas besides food. I hope this interview inspires you to pick up Maggie's book, create something yourself, or at least purchase something that was made more ethically.
Mimi: Tell me about Nåde Studio and how you started it?
Maggie: Nåde means "grace" in Danish. It fits well with the maxim of my company because I want to create and spread by example the grace we should show Mother Earth and ourselves. Living in harmony with nature instead of exploiting it - we can create beautiful colors without introducing toxic chemicals to the earth. Finding grace and fighting the need for perfection is a relevant meditation for natural dyeing because natural colors aren't perfect or permanent.
Mimi: What did you do before Nåde Studio?
Maggie: I started out in fashion and textiles pretty young. My first taste of it was at thirteen years old when I began modeling in NYC. As I got older it shifted toward knitting and silk painting. After ending my modeling career in my mid-twenties, I worked for a large womenswear label. I also did work on websites and photography. I still do some freelance photography work and prop styling too.
Mimi: How did you get into this business?
Maggie: Working in fashion so young - didn't really expose me to other careers or passions. So after I left modeling behind, I stuck around in the industry. Seeing all the waste that went into the fashion industry was heartbreaking. Eventually I got back to my roots and nature - being close to mountains and hiking really inspired me to work with natural dyes. It was then that I crafted a slow textile mission for my brand.
Mimi: What made you decide, or want to dye fabrics from food waste?
Maggie: There are so many sources for natural colors - you can go hiking and forage, you can purchase extract or materials, and you can save your food waste. Having traveled so much for modeling, I saw firsthand the effects of food waste in places like India or Thailand. In contrast, I would see the heaps of uneaten food tossed in trash bags or dumpsters simply walking down the streets of NYC. It made me very sensitive to the impulsivity and wastefulness our culture was unconsciously promoting. After more research, I learned about what happens to fruits and vegetables that aren't "pretty enough" to make it to grocery stores, it's just trashed.
I guess I began my mission to focus on dyeing with food waste because I thought if I could show people the hues rendered from food waste that it will challenge them to see and experience food in a new way. Perhaps even motivate them to be more intentional going forward.
Mimi: Where do you get all the food waste you use for your products?
Maggie: I am so lucky to have friends in the restaurant and farm world that care about food waste. Over the years, I have ended up partnering with restaurants and farms to gather and use their food waste for dyeing. The most dedicated partnership I have is with Alleia - an amazing Italian restaurant in Chattanooga, TN. They source produce from local growers and their prep chefs and sous chef text me when they have food waste to pick up.
Mimi: What kinds of things do you sell in your online shop?
Maggie: The NÅDE STUDIO shop mostly features products from my on-going projects.
There are 3 right now.
Endangered Series is a reaction to climate change and the rising amount of plant and animal life on the endangered species list. The project showcases naturally dyed silk and cotton accessories with prints of botanicals and insects that are endangered. With each purchase 10% of the profit is donated to the WWF.
Feed Weave is my food waste initiative. I naturally dyed fiber with food waste to then hand weave into large weaving installations or small wall hangings for the home. 10% of the profits from these pieces are donated to Feed My Hungry Child. In 2018, the money donated from Feed Weave was able to provide 1257 meals to hungry people.
Home Goods are a collaboration between a women's weaving cooperative in Oaxaca and myself. These naturally dyed and handwoven pillows and rugs are sustainable additions to anyone's home. This on-going project allows the women of Vida Nueva to pursue community better many projects like feeding the elderly, providing clothing to children, preserving sacred land.
Union is an upcoming project that I am launching with my partner, who is a woodworker and co-owner of 6x6 designs. We are designing and creating home decor items using waste from his work and mine. It is a Zero Waste marriage of wood and fiber. We are hoping to launch it in 2020.
Mimi: Can people go into your studio to shop too, or is it just your creative space?
Maggie: I just moved to Arizona from Tennessee on October 3 so I am still getting settled here. But my dream is to have a studio/shop here where I can teach classes and have customers see my work.
Mimi: Tell me about your book!
Maggie: The Natural Colors Cookbook is a collection of all my natural dye recipes using food waste and scraps along with fun textile projects for folks to do at home. I start by writing about the basics of natural dyeing because some people don't know what fiber type is. I wanted it to be accessible to beginners. The chapters are broken down by color because many of the food materials I use tend to have shocking results - natural dyers will watch as avocado pits produces a blushy pink, black beans render an ash blue, and red onion skins produce an olive green. (avocado pit color shown below)
Mimi: What else can people learn from you?
Maggie: I try to travel once a month to offer slow textile classes in person. Like natural dyeing or weaving. But I also have E-Classes and Natural Dye DIY Kits for those that can't make it to a class in person. The e-classes come with videos and the kits have everything one would need to create a bundle dyed scarf. Teaching is really rewarding because I get to discuss and show people how to be more sustainable and intentional with their lives.