The Dyer's Art: Understanding, Creating, and Growing Color

Fall 2019
Winter 2020
Spring 2020
Evening and Weekend
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 25
8 12 Credits per quarter
Variable credit options, see below
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In this program, students revitalize the age-old tradition of dyeing with plants. In dye labs each quarter, we learn basic dye techniques using kitchen-friendly, natural materials; create a dye sample book; and engage in various research and dye projects. We also engage with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden, observing, caring for, and harvesting plants through the seasons. Since we are  creating color  through dyeing,  we explore color itself in different contexts each quarter.

In fall,  in addition to gaining skills dyeing with plants, we gain an  Introduction to Color  through exposure to scientific understandings of color, including physics of color and light, biology of color perception, and roles of pigment in botany. We also begin to explore color in historical and cultural contexts, discover color mixing in art theory, practice observing and recreating colors in a Color Exploration Journal, and engage with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden in the fall season. For our final project, we create a comprehensive dye sample book.

In winter , we engage in dye labs and examine  Color in Place and Culture . This work exposes us to cultural ecology –– the study of cultural relationships with the environment. We explore color in various ecocultural artistic traditions including the Coast Salish of the Pacific Northwest and a strand of our own heritage, which we select and research. We also explore color in our environment through maintaining a Color Exploration Journal and engaging with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden in winter. For our final project, we share what we have learned about our heritage in terms of cultural ecology, art, and color as well as create an item from material we have dyed.  

In spring,  we focus on  Growing Color and Medicine  because of the many plants that provide both medicine and dye. We engage in dye labs and medicine-making workshops. We focus on the plants themselves, learning their dye potentials, medicinal attributes, botanical characters, growth requirements, and harvest considerations. We emphasize hands-on engagement with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden to actively interact with plants during spring, and we explore color in the garden through maintaining a Color Exploration Journal. For our culminating final project, we research and share a topic of individual interest and create either an item from materials we have dyed or a relevant teaching/learning experience.

Activities include labs, lectures, films, readings, research, writing, journaling, fieldwork, garden care, seminars, and projects. Students who participate all year will move to an Intermediate/Advanced level of skill in Art Practicum: Natural Dye Techniques and Color Exploration Journal. Other subjects will be introduced at a Foundational/Introductory level each quarter. Students are welcome to join the program in winter and spring quarter. 


Fall 2019 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

(8): 10041
Winter 2020 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

(8): 20007
Spring 2020 Registration

Signature Required

Interested students should contact Marja Eloheimo via email for a registration override if space permits. 

Course Reference Numbers

(8): 30002
(12): 30341

Academic details

Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies and careers in

Arts, education, botany, natural history, cultural studies, Indigenous studies, health studies, sustainability 

Variable Credit Options

Students interested in the 12-credit option of the program should contact the faculty for more information. 

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$65 each quarter for museum visits, dye lab materials, art and garden workshops, and garden tools


In Person or Remote
Hybrid (F)
Hybrid (W)
Remote (S)
Time Offered
Evening and Weekend
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 C1105 - Lecture


Date Revision
2020-03-11 Signature requirement added for spring quarter