We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Bourgeois and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamie, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I am inspired by both the resiliency of the natural world and its fragility. In my work, I use natural dyes and fibers to explore the impacts of human interactions within ecosystems. My goal is to spread information and admiration for the natural world – hoping to spark real engagement in fighting to protect what’s in jeopardy. Learning about a specific indicator species, the decline in native pollinators, the mating habits of a particular beetle, the building of a polluting plastics plant (Formosa), the food chain in the ocean, a poem about grasshoppers, how a hermit crab chooses its next shell, the inequalities in so many of the systems we’ve built and the work of artists who’ve come before me and my contemporaries are all sources of inspiration that call me to create the work I make. I’m also very inspired by my process itself of using minerals and plants (and insects and fungi) to create color and line on fabric.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In my work, I use natural dyes and fibers to explore the impacts of human interactions within ecosystems. I primarily create small-batch naturally dyed and printed scarves hoping that they act as a vehicle for spreading awareness and compassion about the Earth we inhabit. Some areas of exploration have included an appreciation of and the decline in native pollinators, dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, the benefit of biodiversity and new work that will center around our plastic consumption and pollution. These textiles are hand dyed and printed with plants and minerals in my home studio. My process is slow and intentional, but I hold space for surprises and experimentation. All of my scarves are finished with a hand-rolled hem and paired with an essay that includes information on how we can mitigate our destructive impacts on our local environments. I’m particularly excited about a new ongoing project “Water Madders” where I’m using natural dyes as a vehicle to explore water quality in my hometown, a particularly polluted region in Louisiana, known as Cancer Alley. Building my body of work and finding my direction is constantly a work in progress. There are times when I feel I’m not producing enough or chasing enough opportunities (thanks social media!), but it’s been very helpful to affirm that it’s okay to make work at my own pace, as long as I’m moving forward in some direction.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In a non-pandemic world I’d take my best friend to do the following: Breakfast at Highland Bakery, coffee from Spiller Park, grab a picnic lunch from Alon’s Bakery and eat it in Piedmont Park, dinner and drinks at Bon Ton and also Little Bangkok! We’d go to the Botanical Garden, bike on the beltline and definitely go to one of the many hikes near Atlanta. We’d visit the High Museum and a few of the local galleries like Spalding Nix Fine Art, Whitespace and Mint Gallery + also maybe the Bakery would have something going on! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to shout out my teachers and artist friends Katherine Sandoz, Nikki Jackson, Lavanya Mani, Erika Molnar, Gabriella Garcia Pardo, Madeleine McGarrity and Lane Gardner. Organizations working to fight against environmental pollution and environmental racism – RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade and the Sunrise Movement. Books that have been very formative are “Petrochemical America” by Kate Orff and Richard Misrach, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard and “All We Can Save” a book of essays on Climate Change edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson. The Green New Deal and specifically one of its writers Rhiana Gunn-Wright. A lot of podcasts, but specifically “Drilled” by Amy Westervelt, “How to Save a Planet” with Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Alex Blumberg, and “On Being” with Krista Tippett. Plus, obviously – so many other people, books and programs!