Designer Profile: Cara Marie Piazza - New York


Hi Cara Marie! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Cara Marie Piazza, a natural dyer and Textile Designer in New York City.

I create one of a kind textiles only using natural dye stuffs such as botanicals, plant matter, minerals, non-toxic metals and food wastes and treats my fabrics through alchemical dye sessions, ancient shibori techniques and bundle dyeing, transforming each textile into its very own story. I work with both designers and artists to realize their Natural dyeing needs as well as create custom pieces for private clients.

What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I grew up in New York City, where I was influenced by nature’s concrete cages, and cement play grounds in my drive to find a more natural way of living. I’ve been making since I was a small child, I didn’t come from a particularly artistic family but was only ever really happy when I was creating. Loving fashion , I attended a Parsons summer course where I was guided to apply to school in London, where I went to the Chelsea College of Art & Design. There I was introduced to natural dyeing my senior year and never looked back . 

What drew you to textile design?
Initially I had been studying jewelry design and working with Jewelry designers an intern until I was a press manager. I felt like I had a command of metal and wanted to learn a skill set that was completely foreign to me. A tutor at my Uni suggested that I apply to the Textile Program at Chelsea because of my love for incorporating fabric into my pieces. 


Did you start off working with natural dyes or did something cause you to make that shift?
I didn’t no, I was initially introduced my senior year at college. I began my practice my thesis year of University in London. Disillusioned with the toxicity of the fashion industry, both physical and mental, I was in search of a way to participate in the arena in a sustainable and meaningful way. I took a workshop in dyeing with onion skins as a part of Uni and was immediately hooked by the medium. Many kitchens, vintage store studio basements later, I’ve grown the practice into a business which I feel very blessed to have. 

When did you learn how to use plants and minerals to dye textiles?
My senior year of college, I taught myself. I had no access to grow space so immersed myself in all the books I could find. I made partnerships with restaurants and grocers and started collecting their scraps. Eventually I expanded to working with pigments and foraged plants. 

Do you have a favorite/most interesting material to use to create dye?
I don’t but recently I’ve been wanted to explore more with clays, iron oxides and mud dyeing. There is something very soothing about clay and warmth and stones and I want to explore that field next. 

Could you tell us more about all of the different services you offer?
I work with designers and artists to curate color for their collections and create naturally dyed pallets for their work. I also offer a service for brides to send in their arrangements and bouquets to immortalize their special day through a technique called bundle dyeing. I also offer a small scale dyeing service for solid natural colors.

What inspires your designs? How do you feel when you're creating garments?
I am inspired by timelessness, I want the people who wear my clothes to feel comfortable, strong, proud and protected. Clothing for me is our shield from the elements and should be imbued with healing and protective properties. I think it’s important to change the way we interact with clothing as if we’re not connected to it.


How do you connect with your customers and community?
I aim to connect with my community through teaching workshops, curated events and social media. I believe in fostering online communities but through teaching I find there is a reciprocity of learning you loose through non-human interaction.

Do you have a dream collaboration or project?
I’m very lucky to feel like I’m living it. I am currently working with the brand Samuel Snider and we are opening a space in New York that brings together all of these elements. We are creating space for artisans, artisan talks and making space for education around craft to foster creative communities.

What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
Natural dyes are susceptible to many variables when trying to attain certain shades, and there is an element of unpredictability. I find however that by shifting your own projected expectations of the outcome and building the variance into your ethos, you are able to create a product that is based more on story and craft that hitting a certain mark that isn’t necessarily important.

At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I think women and women identifiers, contain the intuition and empathy that is going to facilitate the healing of our planet. Gone are the days of having time for competition, we just don’t have time anymore. I believe in the principles of abundance, and when you create space for people, you’re creating space for yourself. We’re all helping each other. By collaborating and working with other women identifying people we are only building each other up and creating more opportunities for one another to thrive.


Who are some women that inspire you?
My mother, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein, my friend Lucia Della Poalera who is translating for immigrants on the border, my friends and teachers Mandana and Lauren Giambrone who are carving space for safe healthcare for the LGBTQIAP community.

What is something a woman has told you that you'll never forget?
“Cara, life is long.”

What do you do to relax?
Relaxing for me is truly not my normal state, I hover between baby tornado and “scheduled” napping. So when I do schedule in my relaxing time, its usually cuddling with a loved one, reading in bed, or cooking.

What is something that you're really proud of?
I’m really proud for the work I have done with Ni En More, an organization based in Cd. Juarez Mexico that provides a safe space and working environment for women who are effected by the femicides that take place on the border. They naturally dye the clothing and have a small sewing studio and safe transport to and from work. You can read more about the project here.

What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I am currently diving into herbalism, and want to bring in more medicinal plant knowledge into my practice. I would also like to learn the art of Kakishibu dyeing.

What are some of your favorite places in New York?
The Natural History Museum
Alberto’s Community Garden
A secret bottle beach off the Rockaways
The Cloisters
Mast Books and Printed Matter, any bookstore really….

Photos by Laura Cervini

Photos by Laura Cervini

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