Laura Sansone is an instructor at Parsons The New School for Design and has been a practicing artist for over 20 years. Her Mobile Textile Lab came to life in 2010 thanks in part to a grant from Parsons. What began as a project constricted to the Union Square Greenmarket, it has now expanded citywide with help from an Atlas Lab mini-grant. City Atlas stated, “Our aim is to seed the city with projects that make life more interesting and that provide practical learning tools.” Sansone’s project fully meets this criteria.
GrowNYC Greenmarket visitors of all ages curiously stop to see what is brewing in the lab’s large, metal pots. Each week promises new inspiration as the dyes on offer are dictated by what’s in season. Not only learning about the dyeing process, the public also sees how agriculture, science and design interact to produce naturally-dyed, low impact fibers. Children see how natural food scraps can be transformed into colors before their eyes, and adults learn about the growing season of various plants and how they react to an array of fibers.
The physical lab itself is a simple design comprised of a bamboo surface for chopping and several burners where the large vats of dye are created. Sansone and her student team start by surveying what’s available at the Greenmarket where they are based for the day. After selecting the plants and vegetables to be used, they chop and boil them to make the dye. Sansone brings USDA organic cotton and wool from sheep raised on farms in New York State to use as a base to do live demonstrations of the dyeing process. She has also made an effort to collaborate with Wearable Collections to re-make recycled clothing into wearable products that can then be sold back to the community to help raise money for the Collections’ projects.
Aside from her educational visits to the city’s Greenmarkets, Sansone runs House-Wear out of her studio and home in the Hudson Valley. She produces felt, wool and hand-dyed and printed products as well as a PAPER WEAR collection. The collection is made from light-weight Tyvek and all manufacturing scraps are sent to the Tyvek recycling plant in Richmond, Virginia. Patrons are encouraged to do the same when they grow tired of their garments. House-Wear’s gro-wear line also boasts a completely sustainable cycle — its organic cotton, non-toxic components can be composted when they are retired.
Whether you catch her at the Greenmarket or are able to visit her website, Sansone’s projects offer fresh insight into the connection between local food production and textile processes. The Mobile Textile Lab grants the opportunity to present the market as a classroom where visitors can be inspired to use local materials and support upstate farms, strengthening local economies. Her next stop will be at the Socrates Sculpture Park Greenmarket in Long Island City this Saturday, October 1st from 9am-3pm.
Images © Amanda Silvana Coen for Inhabitat