Spotlight: Deb Taylor, Eco Artist
Even though she does not have a lot of traditional art supplies nearby, Deb Taylor finds a way to create. Always taking inspiration from her environment, whether a remote Mexican island or her current home in the West Texas desert, Deb sources the materials for her eco-dyed art from repurposed textiles and local botanicals.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I was born a Creator. My Mom was a Maker. So I grew up knowing that food and clothing were always best home made!!
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Who or what has inspired/influenced/empowered you to create?
My Mom, Lyn Keil, was a huge influence in my artistic expressions – allowing me to paint my room purple!!! All my friends were so jealous!! She taught me to cook and sew, and as adults we are still creating together. We can still spend hours with beads, paints and fabrics! My favorite memory is the natural way she allowed me, a Toddler to “help” her by placing me on the kitchen counter because it was my job to make dinner salad. She pulled her sewing machine away from wall so it could be my “job” to raise and lower the presser foot! As I became a teenager she sewed my cool hippie clothes, so that’s how I fell in love with sewing as an artform.
Why fiber art and eco dyeing? How did you get started?
When I was living in Florida, the natural flowers wanted me to try duplicating their vibrant colors on to fabric and paper. After several epic fails and disappointments, I began to explore with simple methods using vinegar, baking soda, kitchen scraps and rusty items. Because I could not be stopped, I began making miles and mountains of eco-dyed fabric and papers!
Does your environment influence your creativity?
Always! I am constantly foraging for new leaves, blooms and roots. I now live in the West Texas Desert where the botanicals are sparse and seasonal. So I live remotely in my environment. The nearest Big Box store or art supply store is 4 hours away so I make do with what I have. This has become not only challenging, but positively rewarding. My art has become raw, organic and, as a result, definitely reflects the grays, browns and occasional blues of the the desert landscape.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My front porch!! My work is messy, so it requires open space. Glass jars and plastic buckets – big work table – water source and clothesline.
Yet I only dye in small batches because I feel more connected to the piece. As a result, I am more in control of the tiny delicate patterns and colors extracted from the botanicals.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
I usually have in mind a direction I want to go. For example: When I eco-dye custom pieces, such as a T-shirt, I only dye during the Full Moon. Because my work begins outdoors, it seems only fitting to absorb the charge and energy from the Moon. I let my customers know this… “ YOUR SHIRT HAS BEEN MOON SOAKED, KISSED BY THE SUN AND DANCED IN THE WIND ”
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Sharp fabric scissors. Quality threads. Japanese Sashiko Needles.
Once I discovered Japanese threads and needles, I donated all my cheap stuff. If I am going to spend months of visible mending and slow stitching, then I am going to use quality materials.
Rescued fabrics and vintage linens are my canvas. We must reduce and reuse.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
Oh yes!! I am a hound dog for found objects. Driftwood is a hanger for my weaving. Discarded bottle tops make armatures. Rusty cans are my tools for dyeing fabrics.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Silence. The wind. The birds. My nearest neighbor is 5 miles away. We live 4 miles off the blacktop, end of a gravel road. The silence is soothing, calm and peaceful. So it helps me remain focused.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
When I lived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico I had no art supplies. Not even a needle and thread. I lived on a very remote tiny island, so I found a bottle of glue, rusty wire and some cotton string and created “Beach Angels” from driftwood, coral and seashells. That body of work was featured in a local art gallery and sold each piece!!
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Make stuff that makes you happy. Don’t worry about selling.
Make stuff. Keep making. It will feed your creative spirit.
Just. Keep. Making.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
So many people label themselves as a non-creative person. But I do not believe that. It’s in there. Depends on how it is expressed. It can be cooking a delicious meal. Raising a garden. Reading poetry to kids at the library. Dancing to your favorite song. So yes, it can be learned. But most importantly express yourself. Let it out in any form possible.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability
Make ugly art. Make it again and again. Then continue the process. It always gets better. Because it all goes back to expression. You don’t have to share it on social media. You don’t have to sell it in a gallery. Make stuff that makes you happy. Just keep making.
Do you sell your work? If so, where can people find it?
Interview with Deb Taylor posted October 2020
Browse through more eco dying projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.