Dye-ing to meet you

Local textile artist teaches natural dye use in Winnipeg, Brandon, Falcon Lake


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West End

Textile artist Ash Alberg is working with students at Sargent Park School to introduce them to the use of natural dyes in art, their own clothes, and in different cultures.

“It’s something really tangible that kids can do that gives them some power over things,” explained Alberg, who uses they/them pronouns.

With the help of the Manitoba Arts Council’s Artists in Schools program, Alberg is working with three different Manitoba schools — Sargent Park, Falcon Beach School in Falcon Beach and Valleyview Centennial School in Brandon.

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Ash Alberg’s students are able to learn, create, and bring their own materials home.

“Giving kids knowledge at a very young age and doing it in a way that’s fun for them — that’s very tactile I think,” Alberg said. “It’s able to address big things in a fun (and) accessible way for kids, for sure.”

They said that knowledge of natural dyes, especially in North America where it can be harder to find traditional, vibrant materials, is important to younger minds in this age of looming climate catastrophe.

“It can also have a ripple effect as we have more people who (ask) ‘what impact does my clothing have on the world?’”

The curriculum uses the art medium to touch on science, history, culture and economics in a way that is very hands-on and easy for students from nursery school up to Grade 9 to understand at every level.

Artists in Schools is available to any school in the province that applies. It not only gives students access to a curriculum they may not otherwise learn about, and it also gives them the materials to continue if it interests them.

“(Sargent Park) isn’t getting extra funding,” Alberg said. “It means their exposure to stuff outside of school is dependent on what their parents are able to take them to.

“So, as a group, for them to be able to go somewhere, learn something, to have an adult come in who’s not part of their regular teaching staff and teach them something new, that’s really exciting.”

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Ash Alberg has been working with textiles for their entire career, even before current knowledge on natural dye use was available to them.

When working with Alberg, who is based in Winnipeg, students are given a better understanding of just how wide the use of these dyes are, the projects in question range from quilts to porcupine quills.

Alongside their work in schools, Alberg also writes and runs an online business called Sunflower Knit, where they are able to highlight their work with textiles and introduce different media to a wider audience. They’re currently coming out with a new book, Sanctuary, available for pre-order online.

Those who are interested in Alberg’s work can visit www.ashalberg.com, and those interested in the Artists in Schools program can visit artistsinschools.ca

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