guest post with resident artist ali smith

I’m always a little envious of beginners. 

When I really start to appreciate my own learning process, is when I’m watching someone else learn something new. It’s like when you read a book with an amazing plot twist, and you pass it on to a friend. You’re so excited for that person to experience the twist for themselves, but there’s a tinge of envy in knowing your friend is about to have an experience with that book that you cannot ever experience again, because you’re not a beginner. You can re-read it, but nothing will ever be the same as the first time your mind processed the words and you realized something absolutely wild had just taken place in that book. 

I taught an indigo workshop at Have Company during my residency here, which was the highlight of my stay in Grand Rapids. There is nothing like having the opportunity to teach and share knowledge, and I’m grateful for everyone who decided they wanted to learn with me. In the workshop there were eleven beginners, and myself, and I was slightly envious of each and every one of them for experience they were about to have. The moment when you take a piece of fiber out of a indigo vat for the first time, and watch the fiber change from yellow to indigo blue as oxygen is added back into the textile…it’s magic. 

I was so excited for everyone to experience that single moment. Watching the color transformation when removing fiber from an indigo vat is always special, but there’s no time that will ever match the awe of the first time. 

I always say there aren’t enough synonyms for the word magic in the English language, and I truly believe that, especially when I’m trying to explain the otherworldly transformation that happens in and out of the indigo vat. I’m lucky enough to be reminded of this magic every time I can teach someone or see someone watch the colors unfold from yellow to green to blue for the first time. If you ever get to experience the indigo vat transformation for yourself, it will be easy to understand why I’m always a little envious of beginners.

Ali's work is for sale in the online shop - snag her hand dyed TOTE or MOON PHASES PILLOW! Beautifully hand stitched magic. 

Ali Smith (Salt and Still) was at Have Company July 25-31 to participate, make, quilt, & share the  tradition of natural dyes. You can find her work at

You can listen to our conversation on the Have Company Podcast HERE