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Renowned Australian ‘eco-artist’ India Flint leads popular workshop retreat in Osoyoos
She might not be a household name to most people, but to millions of artists and weavers India Flint is a “rock star.”
The acclaimed Australian “eco-artist”, who has written numerous best-selling books and has conducted workshops around the world, was the special guest of honour in Osoyoos last week when she led a workshop retreat at the country home of Hilary Robertson, the president of the Desert Sage Spinners and Weavers Guild.
It took 18 months for Robertson to organize the workshop retreat, which was attended by 15 diehard fans of Flint’s work from across North America.
“I first contacted India two years ago through her website,” said Robertson. “We made contact through email … and after 18 months of hard work, here she is.
“India is a world-class artist who so many people look up to and to have her here is such an honour.”
After discussing the idea of holding a workshop with Flint in this region, Robertson said she got response from artists from across North America and around the world.
“We had interest from artists in Scotland, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand and all across North America,” she said. “We had to narrow it down to a maximum of 15 as that is the largest group India is willing to work with in a workshop format like this.”
Several local members of the guild from Oliver and Osoyoos were selected to participate in the workshop.
Flint has many claims to fame as an artist, but gained initial recognition for her work from using eucalyptus oil and dyes to make colourful paintings and quilts.
With a Latvian background, Flint said she “basically used the same system used in dying Easter eggs” and applied it to art.
“The essence of my art is breaking down plants and getting some kind of colour and learning how to coax it up to use in various art forms,” she said.
While she started with using plants dyes for paintings and quilts, Flint has gained much of her acclaim over the past 20 years designing eco-friendly clothing lines and writing books about her techniques.
“I’ve made quite a few handmade garments that somehow appeal to some of the bigger stars in Hollywood,” she said. “Halle Berry has bought two in the past couple of years and there are several others who seem to enjoy what I have to offer.”
Flint originally studied architecture before getting married and settling into a quiet life where she lived off the land on a farm in the South Australian desert. Two of her three children were born and raised there.
“I was surrounded by cows, sheep and trees and I learned to play with dye,” she said smiling.
Flint spent the five-day workshop discussing and displaying her techniques and providing hands-on assistance to participants.
Many of those techniques are detailed in her best-selling books called Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles, Handmade Style Felt and Second Skin: Choosing and Caring for Textiles and Clothing.
The Osoyoos workshop was one of three Flint was leading during this trip. Others were scheduled in San Juan and another in Washington State.
Linda Castillo came all the way from McHenry, Illinois, about one hour north of Chicago, to attend Flint’s workshop.
“When I found out on her website that she was planning this workshop, I knew I had to be there,” she said. “I had always wanted to visit Canada, particularly this part of Canada, and integrating this with her workshop sounded perfect.
“We had actually planned this as a family vacation, but things sort of fell apart a couple of days before and my husband said it was too bad I wouldn’t be able to go. I told him that wasn’t the way I saw it and he was taking care of the kids and I was coming.”
Flint has gained worldwide acclaim because her work is so unique and beautiful, said Castillo.
“I have many of her books and I follow her blog and remain so inspired by her work,” she said. “To be able to meet her and attend one of her workshops is a dream come true and I’m sure most of the other women here would agree.
“The fibre arts community is surprisingly close and when you have a chance to meet and work with someone like India Flint, you don’t miss it. We are all like minded souls who share the passion of combining art and nature and it has been a pleasure to be a part of this.”