Lately, I’ve been making up for lost time: meals at restaurants, long walks outside, going to the grocery store without panicking that I am out of hand wipes. So it came as a surprise recently when one of Santa Cruz’s creative types gave me a great reason to stay home—and enjoy it.
I’ve wanted to go to one of Kaitlin Bonifacio’s natural dyeing classes since I wrote about her for Good Times several years ago. Bonifacio, owner of the Santa Cruz-based business Yuzu & Rose, first introduced me to using natural dyes—from Shibori (a Japanese method of dyeing with indigo) to onion and avocado skins. Fortunately for me, Bonifacio made it easy to teach myself from home.
Bonifacio launched DIY home dyeing kits—both Shibori and natural dyes—during the Covid-19 pandemic so that people could do their own dye projects from home.
“All you need is a bucket of water,” she says; everything else is included. Bonifacio says she has been thinking about launching kits for a while now, but when she began teaching at Cabrillo College remotely, she started packing up kits for her students so they could follow along from home. Bonifacio says that within Santa Cruz there has been a need for creative wellness during the pandemic, from home or otherwise.
“I haven’t seen a lot of other people doing this yet, but I do feel like there is a market for it,” Bonifacio says. “A lot of people I’ve talked to have loved it. It seems like it could work for something like macrame or embroidery. I’m sure that’s on the horizon.”
I got everything I needed to make my own little dyeing workshop in the mail. I opted for natural and shibori dyeing kits—and in retrospect, I had my work cut out for me. I probably could have dyed every article of clothing I own, everything my neighbors own, and then some. Note to self: buy more things to dye next time.
“The community has been so supportive of this during this time that everything feels like it’s on hold,” Bonifacio says. “Because everything has gone digital, I’m teaching classes digitally all over the place now. I had some in Colorado, some in Los Angeles, and there’s a school in Michigan that I taught at. It hasn’t been easy for a lot of small businesses, but since shifting to remote teaching and the kits, the business has grown a lot.”
Bonifacio makes the process remarkably easy, there are step by step instructions, online videos, and she astoundingly avails herself to anyone who has questions via the chat feature on her website. This was particularly helpful for me because when the vat of blue indigo dye started bubbling and fizzing, I knew I had managed to royally screw it up.
She assures me that this is totally normal. “This is the ‘mother’ layer protecting the rest of the dye from oxidizing.” Whew. Now, how do I get rid of the five-gallon vat of dye in my backyard once I am done?
“It’s safe for groundwater, and your plants will enjoy the pH as fertilizer,” she writes over chat. At 5pm on a Sunday, no less. “Just make sure it’s somewhere you don’t mind getting blue.”
Bonifacio makes it look easy; the kits are easy to follow, beautifully and conveniently packaged, but it’s anything but easy for artists to pivot to this kind of remote, DIY style—particularly those who may be used to teaching in person.
“It can be daunting for artists to develop a product and have to price it out and think about scaling it and sourcing materials,” she says. “I did the troubleshooting already when I measured out materials for my students while teaching online, but it’s been really popular since the kits have been in stores for everyone.”
Now, several hours and a pair of completely blue hands later (I wore the gloves, but was reckless with my splashing), I have a new set of pillowcases and several one-of-a-kind naturally-dyed tea towels. But the best part of the experience was the opportunity to be creative from the comfort of home. The beauty about these kits is that they are versatile: they can be an individual creative project, a date activity, or shared at a party.
Although the world is starting to reopen again, and with that comes the opportunity to be in person and take part in creative workshops, there is something humble and validating about having access to these new projects from home and doing it on my own. Blue hands and all.
For more information on Yuzu & Rose kits, or for in-person workshops, visit yuzuandrose.com.