“Once I was asked how I shifted from performance to natural dyeing and textiles since it must be quite different. I think that my whole work is the answer to this question. I see our bodies as nature and, other than approach or technique, there is not much difference to me in how we use and navigate our bodies within a larger cycle of nature.
As a performer, I have immersed myself in Japanese culture through my body. I have studied the katas deeply through Seitai-ho and Noh theatre practices and as a Zen Buddhist lay practitioner. Katas are basic body postures that we can find in many areas of traditional Japanese culture and religion, such as Kabuki and Noh Theatre, Tea Ceremony, and Zen Buddhism. I’ve realized the great value of craft art for Japanese culture. It doesn’t matter what kind of art it is, ceramic, weaving or natural dyeing, all of them, without exception, have the body as a starting point. This body is inseparable from the environment that surrounds it, it’s nature itself. Not only in Japanese culture we can find this intrinsic relationship between the bodies, the culture, and the natural cycles. Numerous traditional communities such as the Canadian first nations or Brazilian indigenous people have this way of being at the core of their cultures. I believe these distinguishing cultures and bodies are mirrors of their environments.
This is how I understand and make art. This is my search. My work is inseparable from my body and my environment. I use as a material what I can achieve and glean: plants, scraps of fabric, paper, thread, and my body. Usually, I don’t sketch before gleaning the material. I don’t search for the ideal hue to express myself. My way is quite the opposite: plants offer to me their colours and shapes. Then I use the results to compose my work. I try to recollect feelings about the place that the plants came from. When I stitch the scraps of fabric to compose the whole work, it seems that I can breathe that unique instant, that unique place.
In both performance and textiles, I try to catch the impermanent and ephemeral pulse of life, imprint on fabric or body, levels of memory to reveal the sacred nature around us.”
Fernanda Mascarenhas is a textile artist, natural dyer, performer, and graphic designer from São Paulo, Brazil. She began her artistic journey through dance. After graduating at the University, she started working as a graphic designer. At the same time, Fernanda cultivated her artistic career as an interdisciplinary performer, before falling irrevocably in love with natural dyeing.
In 2016, she started researching natural dyeing to develop a costume for her performance work. This costume won a prize, which enabled her to travel to Japan to learn more about traditional ways of natural dyeing and weaving. Since then, Fernanda has been focusing on making textile art based on ancient techniques of natural dyeing with plants. Whilst a large inspiration comes from Japanese culture, the locally grown Brazilian plants have been the main material and passion for Fernanda.
Engaging with the slow process of natural dyeing in São Paulo’s urban area and time, she has respected the generosity of nature, its cycles and changes, while intending to reclaim the lost knowledge of plants, such as their medicinal use. Now she lives in New Westminster, Canada and looks forward to knowing the colours of Canadian plants in a deeper way.
Eco Creative Cluster
This is a recording of my presentation at Eco Creative Cluster, an event organized by The Rockfield Center, a community center in Oban, Scotland. Led by Oban-based curator Naoko Mabon, the project also aimed to weave a wider network of practitioners working across different localities in the world who have a sustainable and ecological approach. In this conversation, I told a little bit about my way as an artist and the importance of natural dye for my work. April 2021.