A Innovation From Indigo, Series 3 of 3

Harsh dyes are so 2013.

Illustration and Story by Brittney Stewart

Today’s fabric is often ordinary, cheap in quality and mass-produced with synthetic dyes. Sarah Bellos, the founder of Stony Creek Colors, is educating the world on the damage caused by synthetic dying practices, and how to replace them with natural, alternative indigo dye. Indigo is a non-edible plant used to make natural dyes for nearly everything from blue jeans to couch cushions and potentially even hair dye. Natural indigo is benign to humans, however, toxic chemicals can be absorbed through the skin after prolonged exposure to manufactured, synthetic dyes creating an endless amount of harmful possibilities.

The danger of synthetic dyes extend far beyond a rash; fabricated dyes can cause dizziness, fatigue and even lack of learning skills in children. Upon production of synthetic dyes, inventors knew they contained disastrous chemicals such as dioxin, a known hormone disruptor, as well as chrome, copper and zinc, which fall into the category of carcinogens. You also can’t rule out the poisonous formaldehyde used in production of synthetic dyes. In addition to being a poison to humans, factory fires are also common when producing synthetic indigo dyes. Workers can suffer from several strains of cancerous tumors, as well as lung disease, and are 40 times more likely to fall victim to a terminal disease than the average population.

It’s simple, I want to create a healthier more vibrant world.

– Sarah Bellos

Production of these harsh chemicals are eventually introduced to our lifeline—water. Fabrics are dipped in water and washed after dying. Most factories claim it is much cheaper for them to simply dump the dyed water rather than to reuse it, leaving us with toxic dyed rivers and streams all over the world.

Sarah Bellos and her sisters from New York started a company called “Southern Hull,” in hopes of producing naturally-dyed clothing after research in the business of natural dyes proved ‘obsolete.’ Determined to be successful, she worked with farmers, chemists, mills and brands convincing them of a completely new way to manufacture bio-based dyes. Sarah wanted to break the trend of synthetic petroleum-based dye production. She made the move to Tennessee, looking for reasonably priced farmland with great soil and agriculture. Once in Tennessee, her diligence and commitment to indigo allowed her to open under a new name, Stony Creek Colors. Surrounded by countryside, her business, her farm and her indigo research could thrive.

Her goal, to create plant-based dyes in hopes of preventing the leading cause of industrial water pollution: synthetic dyes. Bellos, the founder and CEO of Stony Creek Colors, wrote, “It’s simple, I want to create a healthier more vibrant world.” This statement is the reality in the minds of many entrepreneurs today. With goals of taking over and replacing synthetic dyes, Bellos and her team at Stony Creek Colors commenced a partnership with ten tobacco farmers who introduced the indigo crop to their inoperative land. Dormant tobacco fields infused with indigo are creating a dynamic new revenue stream. With her proposal, Bellos and her team raised over a half a million dollars after contacting investors. She was also acknowledged by and given grants from the Small Business Innovation Research Program.

Special thanks to Maureen O’brien, a Nossi College of Art Instructor who helped with this assignment.

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