Teresa Mascia started working with textiles when she was asked by a friend to repair some vintage clothing. Her work has since blossomed into the beloved textile studio, Bianca & Red. Her pieces are lovingly sewn by hand and dyed using natural ingredients in her Santa Fe studio. We dive deeper into Teresa’s creative process and how the New Mexican landscape inspires and recharges her.
WW: Tell us about your background and how you started experimenting with dying, sewing, and creating.
TM: I began working with clothing and textiles by repairing antique clothing and textiles. Scott Corey of Santa Fe Vintage asked me if I could repair some vintage for him and not knowing how to sew, I gave it a shot. That work lead to doing vintage repairs for RRL, Shiprock Gallery and others. It was important for me to respect the original garment, how repairs would have been done at the time/place, how perhaps the owner of the garment might have fixed it. I didn't like using bright, glaring white thread so my first dyes were herbal teas used to antique thread. At some point in this process, I started experimenting with other natural dyes -- madder to make corals at first, logwood greys, yellow with our local chamisa flowers. These experiments coincided with some of the first clothes I made.
WW: What is your process for dying your garments? What ingredients do you use in your dying process? How long does it typically take?
TM: I almost always dye the fabric before making the garment, so that I can work around any dye variations that may occur. This involves first cleaning the fabric to remove any finishing that could repel dye, then mordanting it in some cases and finally dying the fabric. My favorite dyes, like walnut hulls or onion skins, contain a lot of tannins and don't require that mordant step. These dyes take anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hrs depending on the depth of color. Red and black dyes are at least day long processes and often require overnight soaks.
WW: What do you enjoy most about running your own creative studio? What is most challenging?
TM: The process of making is very enjoyable for me. There are difficult and tedious tasks, but for the most part this work brings me a lot of joy. I very much enjoy connecting with the women I make pieces for and the relationships that can form from our collaborations. I feel that they teach me something about what women want and need. I struggle with the business side of things. I've gotten better at managing all the tasks on a given day and the costs involved, but I would say this is not so enjoyable for me.
WW: How does living in New Mexico influence you and your work?
TM: I live in New Mexico for the land. The energy here is of the land, not so much it's people. I try and take my daughter into the mountains and nature at least once a week- it is really just 15 minutes from my house! I'm always thinking about the open space, the rhythm of nature, the birds speaking, the trees’ steadiness amongst an ever changing scheme. I hope these feelings come through in the forms I choose and the colors.
WW: Periods of feeling uninspired can be difficult. What do you do to feel rejuvenated during periods of creative stagnancy?
TM: The way I work currently is to sew a few orders and then make something new. By the time I'm done with the orders, I'm usually really itching to experiment and design. I always keep a notebook, so if an idea enters my head I record it with a little doodle immediately before it disappears. I have a well of ideas I feel I will never get through them all! Ideas are ever evolving though and change with me. If for some reason Ii'm not feeling creative, it's usually because I'm fatigued or stressed. I find rest and time in nature is the best solution in these instances. Otherwise, I teach myself a new skill and inspiration can come from that place.
WW: Describe your work in three words.
TM: craft, respect, discovery
WW: If someone wants to learn more about natural dying or perhaps try it themselves, what do you suggest is the best way to learn?
TM: I think the best way to explore natural dyes is to start with dyes you have at home- black beans, onion skins, bark, flowers. Most things soak for a day and then simmer up for an hour to extract the color. Strain and keep the liquid dye and add your fabric. Natural dye is a lot like cooking with color! Aurora silk, maiwa, and botanical colors all have extensive information on their websites and have helped me tremendously.
WW: What’s next for Bianca & Red?
TM: I've been spending a lot of time working on refining -- my patterns, details, skills, offerings. I'd like Bianca and Red to continue to evolve as a workshop where one can have something beautiful made to be cherished. Creatively, I'd like to explore wax resist to make patterns with natural dye and painting on fabric.