Nature informs every part of my day.
Rising with the sun, eating food grown a few steps from my back door, using natural products in our home and spending time in the bush where I can just observe and be. I am an artist, everyday is about the challenge of making something new and for me connecting with the earth and marvelling at the colours that surround me is central to that process. My work takes me into my surroundings to harvest raw materials to create the colours in my work. Making paint from the earth, dyes from plants, or a sculpture from vines. I'm also a teacher and would love to share this creative journey in natural colour with you.
The legacy of natural colour
Traditionally dyes were extracted from flowers, leaves, roots, lichen, insects and even molluscs. Artist and cosmetic pigments came from the earth. Most cultures had at it's heart an industry of colour selected from their local environment. The processing of natural dyes involved boiling, fermentation, or the addition of tannins or metallic salts to bind the dye to the textile. Pigments would be ground to a fine powder and mixed with oils, resins or gums to make paint or cosmetics. The making of colour was an art form passed on between each generation.
With the introduction of synthetic dyes and pigments in the 20th Century, many of the skills and knowledge of these crafts, that supported local industries and communities, have declined. This has been in tandem with the impact on our environment and workers health due to the use of harmful chemicals employed in these industries. Today a resurgence of interest in natural colour has emerged as individuals seek more authentic and healthier ways of making art that allows them to connect with nature. There is a growing awareness that the choices we make affect the health of the environment that supports our well being.
Michelle Leilani Teear is an artist who celebrates the intense colour and contrast of Australia through her paintings and fibrework. A graduate of UNSW Art & Design, Sydney. Michelle’s knowledge of the craft of natural plant dying and traditional paint making, and her passion for sustainable art making led her to initiate the education business Michelle Leilani.
Drawing inspiration from the textures and colours found in nature on her travels to remote areas and her permaculture garden, Michelle shares her knowledge through her workshops in natural arts and crafts. Reviving old techniques combined with contemporary approaches to art making, she not only guides students through the techniques of each craFt, but instills an appreciate for connecting with nature and it's incredible colour.
Continual study of this traditional art provides an important foundation for her work. She has received tuition from master dyer Aboubaker Fofana, textile artists Liz Williamson & Julie Ryder, and master weaver Matt Tommey, among others.
Michelle exhibits her work regularly in Australia and is represented by Gallery 139. She is currently employed as an art tutor at the Lake Macquarie Regional Gallery (MAC) running educational programs for both children and adults.