Artist Lara Parks explores textile arts through dye
By Mary Ellen Riddle | Correspondent
Lara Parks has a new sink. The Colington artist uses it as part of her fabric dyeing process. The sink installation allowed for a new studio space where she dyes and prints fabric, dyes yarn, and uses the cloth to create napkins, dish towels, scarves and small drawstring bags.
The sink came about through an Artist Support Grant she was awarded through the Dare County Arts Council. The studio also has a massive worktable that Parks could afford to have built due to the loosening up of funds because of the grant. Prior to that, creative space was at an economy.
“I was working on the coffee table in the middle of everyone’s space upstairs,” says Parks, 42, who shares the home with her husband and two teenaged sons.
With the new setup, she no longer has to set out and pack up her project daily in a family-used space. It also helps keep the communal air space clean.
As she got deeper and deeper into the dye work, Parks became concerned with working with dyes near the kitchen where they cook and eat.
“Dyes start as powder,” she says. “You could spread it and not even know it.”
Today, her new studio and sink that she uses to wash out her dyed fabric is on the ground floor separated from their upper living quarters. It is filled with designs she has drawn to turn into hand-carved block prints she will use on fabric. Her images include hands with a seeing eye, puffer and lantern fish, squid, and waves. These prints of varied colors are stamped onto yards of cotton.
On dye color, Parks mostly employs earth tones, turquoises and blues. Indigo is a favorite hue, she says, for its rich, artsy feel. She also collects rusted metal pieces that she puts in a vinegar-based solution to create color. She tries to achieve a happy medium with her color choices between what people will buy and what she wants.
Every piece of dyed fabric is one of a kind. Differences occur depending on how she approaches the multi-stepped process, such as how much ink is used when printing and how much pressure is applied.
“Any small detail can make it a completely different print,” says Parks.
Fabric dyeing and printing demands time and patience. “Everything has a three-to-four step process,” says Parks. “I think it’s difficult for people to look at textile art and really know what they have in their hand.”
Her educational background supplied a firsthand look into creating with fabric. Parks graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in textiles art. She also does directing, stage and scenery work, assistant directing and acting through Theatre of Dare and was exposed to drawing and painting through her artist mother. On top of working with fabric, Parks is the gallery manager at seagreen gallery in Nags Head.
Parks also has moved forward creatively through embracing growth. Gardening helps, she says.
“The gardening teaches me patience and persistence that I don’t have in my body necessarily,” she says. She uses some vegetables such as red cabbage and onions to achieve dyes, and she’s bought seeds as well to grow dye plants such as madder, chamomile, indigo and black eyed Susans, to name a few. “I am trying to get a little out of the box in my color schemes,” she says.
Where is Parks taking her art?
“I’m not sure, but I know what its purpose is,” she says, “to create beautiful fabric that I can apply to products as well. “I may make fabric hanging pieces, or functional pieces.”
She may create printed fabric for other artists to use in their creative endeavors. Parks is keeping an open mind and putting one step in front of another in her new venture.
“I had a teacher that said, “There’s always someone better and there’s always someone worse, so what are you worrying about?”’ Right now, she is appreciating the yards of printed fabric she is creating with the help of her new sink.
Lara Parks’ work is available at seagreen gallery in Nags Head or reach out to her via Instagram at lara.e.parks.