Sylvia Riley is a designer and dyer of natural textiles. Working only with natural fibres, primarily silk, linen and wool, Sylvia applies artisanal techniques, often combining her favourite disciplines (shibori, batik, gutta) to create new distinctive effects.

Sylvia Riley is a Sydney based designer and dyer of natural textiles. She is fascinated with the process of applying colour to cloth and has spent the last 15 years travelling, learning, practising and refining the processes used in textile colouration. Her travels have taken her across most continents where she has connected with and learnt from master dyers. Working only with natural fibres, primarily silk, linen and wool, Sylvia applies the artisanal techniques she has learnt with a twist, often combining her favourite disciplines (shibori, batik, gutta) to get new effects. Her work is influenced by Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics. Since 2008, Sylvia has been experimenting with natural dyes opening up a whole new world of colour possibilities. Extracting tannins from leaves after they have been arranged on cloth offers a lasting snapshot of nature as well as capturing the beauty and scent of the Australian bush.

Shop now: Object Shop online

Images: Sylvia Riley Designs, Eucalyptus Scarf (detail), 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist; Sylvia Riley, Portrait. Photo courtesy of the artist

Sylvia Riley portrait


What is your 'origin story'?! Where did it all start?
I've been a painter and maker ever since I can remember. I immediately loved painting on silk when I discovered it because of the intensity of the colours, the speed and freedom the application of the dyes allowed. A silk painting workshop I was scheduled to attend was cancelled and all students were shifted to a shibori class. This workshop was like fizzy poppers in my brain and it opened up a whole new world, one that I've been immersed in ever since. Textile dyeing is a bit addictive.

What part of the making process do you enjoy the most?
Apart from opening up the dyed bundles (because you just never know what you might get), I love ironing the dyed fabric after it's been washed. I lose myself in the tiny beautiful details as the pattern becomes clear.

What's next on the horizon for you?
I'm working on folding techniques in miniature and screen printing with mordanted dye.