Colours of the High Country

by - Friday, July 20, 2012

Kristy Johnston at Grampians Station, New Zealand.
In the fall of 2011 we were contacted by Kristy Johnston, who had an interesting and unusual dye project.

She had just returned from a series of visits to New Zealand's high country where she was visiting remote sheep stations, collecting vegetation, and creating a series of dye samples to act as a chromatic index of place. In her own words:

"Using the concept of terroir, a French term used in the wine industry suggesting that the flavour of wine is affected by the land and the climate where it is produced, I have sought to find a visual terroir through the material nature of colour by using dye extracted from vegetation physically collected from actual places and applying it to merino wool."

The work formed her Masters Thesis for her Masters of Design at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand. Johnston contacted us again in June to let us know that her thesis was complete (we were happy to be quoted on page 28).

Colours of the High Country: Exploring Place Through Colour is a remarkable work on a number of levels. Firstly, the project is beautifully presented with several photos of the high country she visited, secondly the writing is clear and evocative - equal parts imagery and ideas, and thirdly (perhaps most importantly for our readers) the idea of using natural dyes to make your own colourway as a marker of place is a very strong and compelling one. It is a concept which Johnston has presented in all of its fascinating complexity.

Kristy Johnston's graduate exhibit.
At the conclusion of her project Johnston organized the dyed samples into a graduate exhibition to show the colours of each station. On display were samples of the actual plants, a vial showing the extract obtained from the plant, dyed merino wool, and dyed knit merino fabric.

The farmers involved were unable to make it to the graduate exhibition but she sent them each some photos and a set of swatch cards, each card contained samples of the dyed yarns and knits for each station. Kristy told us "I have heard back from a few of the farmers and they have shown interest in the variations in the dyes between their stations, particularly for the same plant types."

Colours from the High Country is available as a PDF from the following link:

You May Also Like



  2. Hello Suzy,

    There is biographical information in Kristy Johnston's document. We recommend that you access the full document through the link. Thanks


We moderate comments to keep posts on-topic, avoid spam, and inappropriate language. Comments should appear within 24 hours.