Becky Mallory’s beautifully dyed scarves and garments are a pleasing place to rest your eyes—probably because they draw their colors from the natural world around them. In Becky’s fiber art, her love of both her artistry and nature comes to life. So does her deep respect for the Appalachian tradition from which she comes. Becky is the seventh generation to live on her family farm in Greene County, Tennessee, where she and her husband grow indigo and vegetables and enjoy family life with her 95-year-old-mother.
As Becky says in her artist’s biography, “I returned to my family farm in East Tennessee for a simpler life. It just seemed natural to make simpler art. It was time to implement the resourcefulness of recycling and repurposing all of the cloth, wool and thread I had collected over the years into my ‘makings’. The women before me had used scrap pieces of clothing in their quilting, so this idea felt inherently comfortable.”
Becky finds great satisfaction in the creative process: “Felting found wool or fiber from my friends’ alpaca farm; dyeing silk and cotton from natural plants and rust from the farm; deconstructing and reconstructing garments we no longer wear gives me a certain gratification that I am engaging in this circle we call life. Sustaining the integrity of this cloth and fiber releases its preciousness into a process that I find both aesthetic and political.”
Becky connects with her foremothers through her fabric art, but she also shares their tradition of growing useful plants—such as vegetables and the indigo which she uses to create much of her art. Her passion for growing and using indigo is clear when she talks about it. Becky says:
As a fiber artist moving back to the family farm, growing indigo was inevitable. I was intrigued by the entire process of growing, harvesting and producing a truly natural dye. The extra benefit of growing indigo in the garden was that it releases nitrogen in the soil acting as a “green fertilizer.” After successfully growing indigo, we decided to try growing madder, coreopsis, St John’s Wort, tansy, weld, eucalyptus and marigolds. The beautiful colors of dyes that we got from all of those natural plants were just soulful.
I researched and tried eco printing and dyeing with things already growing on the farm. Walnut, blackberry, sumac, pear and apple, dogwood, fig, maple, oak, wild grape, and sassafras leaves became my palette. We experimented with rust and lichens for other natural pigments. My favorite places were engaging in harmonies that were creating my new art….a symbiotic relationship with natural fibers and cloth and our gardens and orchards. My gardens were becoming my studio and my studio was becoming a garden.
We’re thrilled to have this talented fiber artist as one of the three jurors for the Leaf & Root & Berry competition.
We’re about to hang this exhibit in the windows downtown in Erwin, TN, and we’ll also have it online on this site soon. Keep watching, as we’ll announce the winners of the competition. We’ll also be adding some great in-person and online events associated with this exhibit. Please stay tuned! For more information, check our website’s events page or follow us on social media: @createappalachia.
Interested in what Create Appalachia is up to, or what we can do for you? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, which will allow you to keep up with our news, programs, and events.