Sunday Visit: Kara Gilbert on Vibrant Valley Blue

Every Sunday, Botanical Colors sits down for an interview with a luminary in the natural dye, textile and art world. Grab a cup of tea and settle in to learning about someone you never knew! Catch up on all our Sunday Visits here.

This week we sit down with force of nature Kara Gilbert of Vibrant Valley Farm. Vibrant Valley Farm works diligently to care for this earth in everything they do. They farm vegetables, flowers and dye plants and in each step of the process, honor sustainable practices to create healthier communities locally and globally in their outreach, education and daily systems. We are launching an exciting new Indigo with them on Earth Day, April 22nd, so we sat down with Kara to learn more about Vibrant Valley Blue.

BC – Give us your origin story. What drew you to starting Vibrant Valley Farm?

KG – I was drawn to starting Vibrant Valley Farm after working and farming with a friend at Simington Gardens , for three years in tandem with my family history filled with farmers from every generation on my paternal side. 

I had been farming and working with the earth since I was 19 and after traveling and WWOOF-ing and studying garden based education in a graduate program, I was eager to learn more about larger scale agriculture. I believe in the legacy of farming and women led operations and felt like it was my calling. I started VVF in 2013 with my best friend Elaine Walker whom I met in 2002 in the dorms in college.

BC – What does Indigo mean to you? What drew you to this plant?

KG – I was led to this plant by way of Wild Craft Studios and the Museum of Contemporary Crafts’ final install project in 2016. Rowland Ricketts was coming to Portland and the MCC needed a farm to grow indigo for a fresh dye course he was teaching… and the rest is history.

The short of the long is that it was fascinating to get to know this plant, learn about the expansiveness of what it offers and I felt as though I had a real opportunity to explore art along with growing something at this scale; especially a cultivar that does so well in this climate. The world of indigo continues to evolve and teach me more about the natural environment, society and our role as makers and artists and the deep seeded economics and history that is rooted in indigo and our culture. I feel as if I am just getting started. 

BC – Tell us about Vibrant Valley Blue, how did it come about?

Vibrant Valley Blue evolved after Vibrant Valley Farm was diving into the indigo processing and other fiber arts, leading into apothecary products and it started making sense to separate our products. This created space and a path of creativity to allow the business to evolve and dance into something of its own. 

After seven years of exploration and practice we are thrilled to share our indigo pigment with the world. We have held it close for our own dye projects and collaborations and now we can assure that its at its highest caliber for other artisans and dyers.

We believe that Vibrant Valley Blue’s legacy is built on our labor of love and dedication to quality, with products that hold integrity for the earth, people and a fair economic paradigm. This is an opportunity to face the industrialization of indigo head on with a locally grown product made here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

BC – Do you have any advice for the younger you?

KG – My advice for the younger me is to never compare myself to others and let the haters hate. 

BC – Tell us one thing that inspires you that isn’t part of your craft.

I am forever inspired and love J.Dilla. I have been interested in vinyl for quite some time and since I have learned about his influence on music, and hip hop specifically, I have been glued to his story, who he was as an artist and his humble demeanor that echoed across all of his work. 

Try Vibrant Valley Blue Indigo Paste here!