Episode 06

06. The Alchemy of Natural Color – Sasha Duerr

Return to Nature Podcast

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In this episode of Return to Nature, Melissa interviews Sasha Duerr about natural color and how we can participate in transforming our food and fashion systems. Sasha is an artist, designer, and educator who works with plant-based color and natural palettes. She centers her practice and research on the collaborative color potential of weeds, food and floral waste, and local and seasonal ingredients.

Sasha has taught for over a decade at California College of Arts with a joint appointment in Textiles and Fine Arts. She lectures, consults and widely designs curriculum and courses in the intersection of natural color, slow food, slow fashion and social practice. In 2007, Sasha founded Permacouture Institute to encourage the exploration of regenerative design practices for fashion and textiles. Her extensive work with plant-based palettes has been featured in many publications and she is also the author of  The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes (Timber Press/Workman 2011) NATURAL COLOR (Watson-Guptill/Ten Speed Press 2016) and NATURAL PALETTES (Princeton Architectural Press 2020).


  • Her upbringing and its influence on her passion for natural dyes
  • How she merged her passions for art and the environment for her education and career path
  • How she began her own process of learning around making natural pigments after the standard painting materials made her sick
  • The history and significance of textiles, especially in relation to women and indigenous people
  • The grant she received in collaboration with her sister and Amanda Rieux, the edible schoolyard garden teacher at UC Berkeley in the early 2000’s, to use compost as art material
  • Using the principles of sensory experiences to empowering people to begin creating with Nature when they otherwise wouldn’t think of it or want to
  • The disconnect between consumers and the origins of food and fast fashion
  • The similarities between cooking and making natural dyes
  • Bringing regenerative concepts back into textiles and clothing
  • Her non-profit, the Permacouture Institute and events like “Weeding Your Wardrobe” to promote upcycling clothing and weeds
  • The art and science of natural dyeing, from plant identification to pH and mordants
  • Her slow food partnership in Sicily, Italy and seasonal place-based color
  • Her work with Mae-ling Lokko and the Yale School of Architecture on a multi-year grant called “Soil Sisters”
  • Fibershed.org as a resource for regenerative textiles
  • The Or Foundation
  • The concept of “Craft of Use” from Kate Fletcher, who also coined “Slow Fashion”





It really helps me to see limits and to appreciate it … just like a beautiful bouquet. Yes that could not last forever, but it’s worth it because it’s beauty, right? And it’s about that connection.



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