Name: Laura Thompson
Title: Professor of Biology
Project: Work with dyes was funded by a Shi Center Faculty Research Fellowship

I try to get people to appreciate plants and see the whole circle - from historical plant uses to modern industrial processes - and then to question, "Is what we're doing sustainable, or have we lost something in the transition?"

I want my students to learn how we use plants, how production methods impact culture and economy, and if these methods are sustainable. We gin cotton by hand, spin yarn, and make our own plant dyes. Because many of the traditional dye plants are non-native or endangered, I came up with the idea to plant a dye garden at Furman. My classes can now walk outside, dig a plot, boil the plant to make their own dyes, and see the process come full circle.

Working with one of my students, we tested over 55 species of abundant non-traditional plants, developed a new palette of dyes, and presented our findings at a national conference.

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