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The muted colour palette and unique plant prints that you see on Ake Ake Shrouds are created using a technique called Eco Print, or Botanical Contact Printing. Real leaves, flowers, bark and seeds are used to permanently infuse their pigments onto fabric. This art form requires a deep and harmonious respect for the environment, an ethos symbiotic with that of natural burials. I like to think that the life force of plants that grew from the earth will, in turn, return to the earth within the fibres and be welcomed as old friends.

New zealand bush scenery
women picking flowers

I gather seasonal plant material from various sources, always with a sustainable kaupapa. Some grow in my garden or neighbourhood, some are prunings or windfall, or weeds from the roadside. Florists give me their wilted flowers, food waste is diverted from the compost. Each time a branch is cut, thanks is given to the plant. No more is taken than is needed. New seedlings are planted.

The plants are selected for their distinct leaf prints or for the colour they impart in immersion dye baths. Waste water is used to feed the garden and spent plant matter is placed in the compost - and so the cycle of life continues.

Leaves, seeds and petals are then laid out on the fabric, in whichever design calls to me on the day. The fabric is then thoughtfully folded and rolled into a large bundle, nestling the plant material firmly inside.

Using heat, water and time, the bundle is then gently steamed or sometimes simmered. This part of the process is intuitive, I never set a timer. Only a careful watch for clues that the colour is infusing. Once cool, the bundle is unfolded to reveal the prints inside, a time which evokes both nervous butterflies and joy. When dried and pressed the details of the prints become truly apparent. 

hot bundle dyeing
hot bundle dyeing

The process of eco printing is both scientific and magical, an alchemy that has infinite variables. Seasons, water quality, soil quality, temperature, time and the intersection of pigments within a bundle all influence the outcome. So while it is possible, with experience, to conceptualise the results, there are undoubtedly surprises awaiting inside. The goal of eco print is not standardisation, mass production or repeats. Rather, it is a process that demands you to let go of expectations and embrace serendipity. That is why Ake Ake Shrouds hold their own unique personality

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