Case Study

University Colour Garden

university colour garden

The University Colour Garden was developed by postgraduate researchers Kayleigh Davis and Elnaz Yazdani, in partnership with WOVEN and Growing Colour Together , a WOVEN project that has ambitions to create district-wide natural dye colour gardens. Davis and Yazdani have established a colour garden allotment on the University of Huddersfield campus; as a place of respite and wellbeing the University Colour Garden also offers itself up as a resource and incubator for research and practice.   

For Cultures of Place Davis and Yazdani brought examples of their work to display inside Queensgate Indoor market garden and explored different techniques of natural dyeing and embroidery with members of the community through a series of public workshops. Members of the public were introduced to textile techniques and created a sense of place through the sharing of knowledge and skills.   

Embroider With Nature Workshop 
“It gave me time to pause and feel calm, soothed. It has nurtured my soul. I loved the process. It felt good.” 
“Made me think about the existing plants I grow and how I could use them, along with other plants I could start to grow.” 

Plant-based Pigments Workshop
“It made me feel more confident about being ‘curious’ and trying the process at home. It made me feel reconnected with others who were engaged. My inner child felt very alive, despite being a complete novice!”
“Such an amazing process, appealed to my senses because of the beautiful aroma of the flowers.”

The University Colour garden was a place-based project by natural dye artist Kayleigh Davis and embroidery artist Elnaz Yazdani. This project was explored through co-creative community practice involving growing, dyeing and constructing textiles using embroidery techniques. 

Kayleigh and Elnaz responded to Growing Colour Together by creating a shared community textile garden, which was embedded within the staff allotment on The University of Huddersfield Campus. This wellbeing garden was led by master’s researcher and project collaborator, Elnaz Yazdani. Together, Kayleigh and Elnaz saw the potential to create a combined textile garden within the existing space. 

Their work was exhibited at the  Queensgate Market Garden exhibition as part of Cultures of Place. The Exhibition brings together Kayleigh and Elnaz’s research by showcasing elements of the University Colour Garden, from dye plants grown  in the garden to textile pieces dyed using its pigments. Alongside embroidered pieces inspired by the natural forms found within, and embellishments of cultivated components from the garden. The central market space reflected the campus garden through storytelling images and film which shared the project’s development. 

Kayleigh Davis is a natural dye textile artist and MA researcher, whose research seeks to understand the perception and legacy of textiles craft and industry in Kirklees through the co-creative structure put in place by WOVEN in Kirklees. She is one of the artists involved in the natural dye movement ‘Growing Colour Together’, a project by WOVEN rooted in sustainable values and community practice with a focus on increasing education and accessibility to natural  dye practice. 

The artworks exhibited explored a range of natural dye processes including eco-printing, dip dyeing, scattering powered dyes and silk painting. Kayleigh incorporates both grown and responsibly foraged dye materials obtained from the University Colour Garden and surrounding local woodlands. In reflection of the wabi-sabi philosophy which underpins Kayleigh’s research, each piece is embellished with delicate gold leaf accents and intuitively selected dried botany, which is stitched onto each piece by embroidery artist Elnaz Yazdani. 

Through the imprints created and the plants and dyes used, these artworks each tell a seasonal story of the landscape. From where they originated and the garden which has  nurtured their pigments.  

Elnaz Yazdani is an embroidery artist and educator, her research explores themes of community connection. After two years of lockdowns, illness and isolation Elnaz believes that communities need to come together through creativity in order to improve community wellbeing. She believes the act of coming together through embroidery and shared stitching experience can improve wellbeing and support the reconnection of communities. Throughout this case study she explored how gardens and embroidery combined could improve community connection and wellbeing. 

Elnaz explored how embroidery can support the connection of communities; how the process of hand stitching can allow time of communities to reflect, observe and connect with each other and their surroundings. 

The artwork exhibited explored hand embroidery techniques such as couching and goldwork, combined with dried and pressed flowers from the University Colour Garden to make embellishments. The work explores the meditative processes of both hand stitch and gardening combined. These processes are explored with the Kirklees community through a series of workshops carried out throughout the Cultures of Place programme in 2022. Some pieces combined with naturally dyed fabrics from the University Colour Garden by Dye artist Kayleigh Davis. 

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