Dahea Sun’s Cabbage-Dyed Textiles Demonstrate Changing pH of Acid Rain

by , 01/06/12   filed under: Eco-Textiles, Featured, Green Designers

Rain Palette, Dahea Sun, Central Saint Martins, London, U.K., United Kingdom, eco-textiles, eco-friendly textiles, sustainable textiles, green textiles, eco-friendly fabrics, sustainable fabrics, green fabrics, eco-friendly dyes, sustainable dyes, all-natural dyes, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style


Shortly after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Sun found herself in South Korea on a rainy day surrounded by fears of radiation spreading from the stricken nation. Her interest piqued, she began researching acid rain and its devastating effects.

“My intention is to have an easy and poetic approach to show the air condition through rainwater visually,” Sun says.

Acid rain, it turns out, is a pretty universal issue, affecting everywhere from Poland to the southeastern coast of Taiwan. The chief culprits? Sulfur and nitrogen compounds from human sources such as factories, electrical power plants, and automobiles. That’s what Sun realized she could measure rain’s acidity using anthocyanins, which may appear red, purple, or blue depending on its acidity. “My intention is to have an easy and poetic approach to show the air condition through rainwater visually,” Sun tells Ecouterre.

To accomplish this, Sun is preparing natural dye baths using anthocyanin-rich plants and rainwater samples from various locations in London. She will then dye a variety of natural fibers (cotton, linen, wool) to produce visual profiles of the variations in air quality. “My project is designed by ever-changing natural conditions, not by hand,” she says.

Rain Palette is a project that could eventually be carried out on a larger scale to show the acidity of rain throughout the world over time. Using photography and video to document the process, the final outcome will be presented as an installation at the Milan Design Festival in April.

If you happen to be in London on January 12, you might be lucky enough to catch Central Saint Martins’s “Work in Progress” exhibition, which will include Sun’s project.

+ Rain Palette

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2 Responses to “Dahea Sun’s Cabbage-Dyed Textiles Demonstrate Changing pH of Acid Rain”

  1. indianaflint says:

    an interesting idea…but bear in mind that cabbage dyes are not susbstantive [meaning they’ll just wash out in the rain] and that unless very exact recipes for dye extraction are followed it is unlikely their application could be sufficiently accurate for air quality to be assessed.
    it’s one of the beautiful things about plant dyes, that something grown by nature is very difficult to calibrate
    and unless acidity in the air is extreme [ie strong enough to affect the skin] it’s unlikely those dyed fibres will turn pink in the rain.

  2. chrissie day says:

    I think the college atSt Martins will help her follow all the exact dye extraction methods and let her make her final descisons based upon HER work not what has gone before.

    Even I know the difference dying up here in the pennines with peat water from an underground source alters my dyes than with the polluted waters of the cities.

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