In conversation with Nicole Lamarche, the godmother of natural dye
Interview with Nicole Lamarche by Kit Shepherd, Convenor, Transition Bondi
Nicole Lamarche is visiting Sydney from Avignon, France, to run some workshops with Transition Bondi, on natural dyes. I asked Nicole to speak about her approach to her life and work.
She has been staying in Bondi, scouting the neighbourhood, finding all sorts of materials that will be part of her teaching: lillipilli fruits, hibiscus flowers, grape leaves and tendrils, eucalyptus, Norfolk Island pine leaves, turmeric, beetroot and many others. Also second-hand shops have been a source of fabrics that will be used: cottons, wool and silk.
She sees herself as transmitting knowledge that she’s learned through her exploration of the natural world. She is sensitive to the relationship of humans to the energies of colour, plants, and nature more broadly. I see myself as a bridge. I’m inspired by nature and it gives me energy and life; I am a channel of this energy, which comes from nature, and which connects us with all. We are connected to the same energies, even if we are from different countries and cultures. In this realm of growing, and the flowing universe, there is give and take, things come back. Especially with children, like a plant, they grow with that energy.
KS Why do you do this work?
NL: It makes me alive; everyday there is something new, a flow of energy; it goes, then it comes back. Â Every day something happens; it makes you trust in life; you see the cycle of life and death, with humans and nature.
Nature gives you fuel when you work with it not against it; greed is only taking“ and is against nature. When working with nature, you have to take the good with the bad; every day it flows; and you come to understand the change.
It is the same with human beings, when we are in contact on the level of creative energy, it puts you on the same level as everyone else. Regardless of culture, this connection is universal.
KS: What led you to this path in life?
NL: Firstly, making fashion and theatre costumes made me change the textiles we wear from too many chemicals – which damage our health, and bring allergies and skin problems to natural, healthy colour use.
Secondly, starting in Africa, I taught at some schools and NGO’s which cared for neglected or abused children. When they explored the richness of their natural world, that brought them to life. In that way they could feel their talent and ability to earn money.
Thirdly, I learned about ‘savoir faire’ (the art of doing) I wanted to transmit that idea to people, to find their own savoir faire: first to learn, then to do, then to be, and finally to give.
I’ve always enjoyed learning in the outdoors: painting, sculpture, handicraft work. From school I was totally blocked; with my hands I went in different ways in fashion, art, and in my personal life, I started to work with nature. It was only then that I started to understand, to come to life (unlike at school); nature taught me everything. For example, one big lesson is that nature doesn’t need you, but you need nature; another lesson is to work with energy that comes toward you; you learn science (climate), human qualities like patience. Observing nature lets you see that every small thing is important; the grain of sand that you are is very important and can grow. Nature teaches you life and death and that you are an important part of the universe.
KS: Can you talk a bit about colour?
NL: When you like a colour from nature, there’s a vibration from behind it. Your choices show the body’s needs (you might choose blue, me red); you work with it, feel the vibration of the colour of what you’ve chosen. After a while you understand yourself better.
The outside/appearance of plants makes you understand yourself; when you search you see that in that plant is the medicine that you need. It teaches you to work with it, using your hands and your breath; to be your own doctor, showing what to eat or if your body is out of balance. The basis of medicines we buy, originates from plants.
For children, it forces them to look, smell, if there’s a need, a particular relation to the plants, (they’ll be attracted to them)
For me, nature is the best school of life, it’s never finished; there’s always something.
KS: What do you hope people will take away from the workshops?
NL: That they will start to look outside of human-made problems and get a bigger perspective beyond worries, guilt and the past. I hope they will feel themselves to be part of this beautiful world, and in the flow of being; you’re not special, not the best nor the worst.
In general I hope they will get a strong sense that it is good to recycle what you have at home, and to buy only what you need; (we don’t want to add to the problem of clothing going into landfill). This is all to experiment with, during the workshops and to practice at home.
Children have a lot of hidden talents and it’s a way of them exploring and expanding them.
When they’re in contact with the flow, their brain starts to flow; a pre-occupation with appearance blocks that.
For children this is the best way for the future, to live on this earth, for their well being – physical and mental.
This is the story of my life: everyone has their own great way, and I encourage people to follow their own path. This involves work, hard and easy work, an so much joy comes from that.
Nowadays we have a great opportunity to use our great technology as a help, and to live happily, also using our five senses and connection with nature.
Join us for a hands on natural dye workshop (3 February or 17 February dates available) or for conversation with Nicole at our upcoming Inner Transition event this 7 Feb. Please see our events page for more details.