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Meet our guest blogger, Retritus: fibre artist, slow crafter, and botanical dye expert

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Stumbling across Retritus late one night on my Instagram grid, I was struck by the earthy beauty of these stunning textile pieces. Retritus is the artist name of Norton Fredericks, a mixed media fibre artist and purveyer of botanical dyes - and a visual delight you absolutely must-see.

My name is Norton Fredericks and I am a queer First Nations sustainable fibre artist living and working on Bullongin land, Gold Coast, Australia.

My main philosophy around the work that I create is deeply rooted in sustainability and a growing connection to country. All of my work is compostable at the end of its life, and I have made my practice have as low an impact on the environment as possible.

What started me on this craft and sustainability journey was seeing Slow Clothing author Jane Milburn give a talk in my hometown about 6-years ago about the impact of the fast fashion industry. She talked about the effect of microplastics from synthetic fibres, and she also touched on the use of natural dyes. I was intrigued. A little later on I found some books in the library on natural dyes - suddenly I was reminded of how my Nan had dabbled in it years earlier!

I began experimenting at first, and true to form, my creative brain began to wander a bit further. I found the process of natural dyeing really interesting, so I took a lesson with an amazing artist named Wendy Bailye. This lesson got me hooked on felt! It is an ancient craft that takes a lot of energy to create and is a beautiful material for my botanical prints. From there I have found a love for historical techniques like spinning, weaving, basketry, hand stitching, and historical clothes.

My artist name came about - and was directly inspired by - what I use in my practice. I use a lot of detritus, from nature and the fashion industry. I use leaf litter that otherwise would compost and I like to source materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

While some of the materials I use are virgin I look for ones that have an interesting story like silk noil, recycled rayon/ hemp blends, or Seacell. I also wanted to incorporate the idea of the three REs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into my name so, Retritus was born. I feel like my work has also grown to encompass the idea of reintroducing historical crafts through a modern lens. Sticking to my sustainability ethos can be a challenge at times but it's also fun to test myself with my art and the guidelines I have set myself; it encourages ingenuity.

As I've grown my knowledge of natural dyes and fibres, I have learned so much more about chemistry, botany, history, and culture. More than I ever expected. My work has also allowed me to slow down, and truly become my most authentic self. I have become more in touch with my ancestry on a deeper level because of it.

What inspires me the most is the concepts of the past and the future. The past: because living without synthetics, we created such beautiful fabrics and had such a rich connection to the clothes we wore. But also the future; for the technologies and the advancements in sustainability, we can't even imagine yet. It all excites me! My studio is currently whatever part of my house I can fit tables into, depending on the size of my project. I teach felt and natural dye workshops around South East Queensland. I am more than happy to travel and take private bookings for special events.

Follow Norton on Facebook and Instagram: @retritus

View Norton's work via the website: I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of this Country on which we live and work. I recognize their continuing connection to place: to the land, the water, and culture

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