Interview by Nancy Walker
Gallery ~ www.marydowne.ca
I want to start out with a picture of Mary Downe’s steamer full of over ripe bananas but I will keep you in suspense for a bit. Mary is a very skilled and fine natural dyer of beautiful linens, silk organzas, scarves and wearables and she also paints. Most of her work is infused with the theme of the garden. I can see it everywhere.
Mary only uses natural dyes for her textiles because "the colours have a natural vibrance, the colour comes from within, it’s alive". She dyes using many natural materials and has mastered the art of very fickle indigo dyeing process. Now comes the bananas. To dye indigo, all of the oxygen has to be extracted from the water. This is done either by using chemicals or … bananas, because the are natural and Mary only uses natural dyes. She steams the bananas, adds them to the green indigo water then cooks all this together and when you pull the fabric out into the air, all the oxygen rushes back in and turns her textile into a glorious deep earthy blue. It’s like magic. She then augments her beautiful scarves with intentionally placed bits of ribbons, contrasting dyed silk and resist designs, it’s a wonderful wearable textile collage. They are so alive and vibrant.
Her colourful and calming paintings are windows to a peaceful thoughtful gaze upon a garden landscape. Unassuming and refreshingly simple, they inspire contemplation.