Rebecca Desnos: natural dyer and publisher

Rebecca Desnos (34) lives just outside of London, UK, with her husband and two sons. She is a natural dyer and publisher, which she tells us about in Issue 35

What are you up to?
My craft is natural dyeing and I specialize in plant dyes and plant fibers. I write and publish my own books, and I am an independent publisher of the magazine Plants are magic. I’ve just released the fourth edition. Plants are my passion that connect everything together. Recently, I have been enjoying dyeing with Japanese indigo plants (Persicaria tinctoria) that are growing on my balcony. At home, I am in another decluttering phase, trying to simplify things as much as possible.

How did this become your passion?
I’ve always been a maker or crafter. I used to make clothes, cards, beaded jewelry, and weave with paper. I used to enjoy customizing secondhand clothing. Initially, I used synthetic dyes where you put the powder in the washing machine. When I read the book Killer clothes, I learned about the harmful ingredients in textiles. After that, I wanted to learn how to dye my clothing with plants.

What do you like most about natural dyeing?
My favorite aspect is that it’s full of surprises. The same plant can give different results with slightly different conditions, and sometimes the color is a real surprise. The entire process fills me with energy and happiness. Plants unite people in a special way, and I love capturing some of these stories in my publishing work. The artists and herbalists that I collaborate with are often thinking about similar ideas and themes but are using different techniques or methods.

What motivates you?
I love what I do so much that I am naturally driven to continue. When you enjoy something, it doesn’t feel like work at all. It was only once I started working for myself that I felt motivated in this way. I work very intuitively and follow one interest after another. I love the freedom of being able to explore ideas and letting things naturally evolve over time.

How did you learn this craft?
I followed some simple instructions on a website from which I bought some powdered plant dyes. Experimentation is at the heart of my natural dyeing, and I’ve learned so much this way. I will never forget the moment when I realized that weeping willow leaves could make pink dye. I assumed they would produce yellow, but the next morning, the yellow dye has transformed into a deep pink!

I am led by my intuition and just let things flow. Within the natural dye community, I’m fairly well known for dyeing with avocado skins and stones. Avocado dye is still one of my favorites, but I also enjoy dyeing with plants such as nettles. It’s thrilling to make colors from plants that other people consider weeds.

  • Find out more about Rebecca and her work on her website.
  • Read more about what Rebecca and others are up to in Issue 35.

Text Jeanette Jonker  Photography