Sarah and Emily Parkinson
TEXTILES | Naturally dyed and screen printed textiles
Penland Affiliation | 2022 Penland instructors, 2020 Penland Studio Assistant (EP), former Penland staff (SP)
Artist Bio | Emily and Sarah Parkinson, the co-founders of Homebody Textiles are color lovers and pattern aficionados through and through. Em has a degree in fashion, a closet full of mustard clothes, and a kitchen full of silver serviceware. Sarah has a background in environmental sustainability, a flock of hens, and lots of mud on her hiking boots. They both learned to sew sometime in elementary school thanks to their mom’s capable hands and have been working with textiles in some way or other ever since.
Homebody started as whispers and what-ifs that slowly crystallized into something more. Inspired by the rich palette of natural dyes, asymmetry, and the quiet elegance of household objects, they sketched and tossed around ideas. In the fall of 2019, Em and Sarah designed their first collection on the cobalt-blue porch of a little farmhouse in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There’s a lot they love about this collaboration, but the best part is just that—collaboration. Homebody is the two of them, their materials, their designs and processes, and all of you. It’s so much more than the sum of its parts.
Artist Statement | Our pieces are everyday celebrations—of creative minds, our vibrant natural world, and the magic they spark when they work in concert. Each one brings together modern design with centuries-old dye wisdom and printing techniques. The results are timeless and fresh, intentional and unexpected.
We’re a small studio with a big heart. Everything we make at Homebody starts as blank fabric and pencil sketches, transformed one step at a time by our four hands. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we’re serious about making the most exquisite pieces we can in the most thoughtful way we know how. For us, the name Homebody speaks to an intimate place of care and connection. Our dearest hope is that our textiles find their way into your homes—however you define them—and allow you to feel just a little more at ease, a little more inspired, a little more you.
Meet Homebody Textiles | Sarah and Emily Parkinson
Q: Where do you live and operate a studio?
A: We started Homebody Textiles, our collaboration while living near Penland in the fall of 2019. Last year, we both moved to the West Coast. Sarah is currently in WA a little north of Seattle, and Em lives in Oakland, CA, where our studio is at the moment, too.
Q: What is your favorite object or piece to make?
A: We\’re going to cheat and pick two! One is our screen-printed and naturally dyed bandanas because we treat them like individual compositions as we design them. There\’s so much opportunity for experimenting with color and pattern and balance within the square format of the cloth. Our other favorite is our quilted garments. We make them as a way to bring new life to scraps and samples and seconds by cutting them up and reassembling them. They add a whole new dimension to the patterns we design, and we love the opportunity to bring colors together that aren\’t possible to achieve in a single-dyed textile.
Q: Walk me through how a project begins.
A: We always start a new piece with pencil sketches on paper. It\’s really important to us that our pieces have the personality and looseness of a hand-drawn line, so we move from there to full-scale pen drawings in black and white. It\’s only at the end of the design process that we scan them into the computer to fine-tune details like spacing and alignment.
Q: How has your work changed over time?
A: Our work is really driven by our own discoveries and questions in the studio. How can we get a soft shade of jade green using natural dyes? What would happen if we treat the cloth with iron after it\’s printed and dyed? We learn more and more as we go, and that accumulated learning shows up in the breadth and depth of our work as we go.
Q: What current or future projects are you excited about?
A: Honestly, neither of us has ever really thought about \”being an artist\”—but that compulsion to engage our hands and explore materials in creative ways has always run deep. Recently, we\’ve been talking a lot about ways to bring that love into closer alignment with the rest of our lives. We\’re imagining setting up a more permanent, flexible studio, and then letting the \”Homebody\” projects seep out from there. Everything from self-hosted workshops and retreats to entire spaces designed in our aesthetic are on the table (or at least in our heads!).
Q: Of all the tools in your studio, which one is your favorite?
Q: As screen printers and natural dyers, we do a lot of ironing and lugging 5-gallon buckets of water around. It\’s all very glamorous. We bought ourselves a steam press pretty early on—basically a big panini press for fabric—and it\’s been a lifesaver! So much faster than a traditional iron.
Q: What are your ideal working conditions?
A: Both of us in the studio, Bonnie Raitt blasting, and a strong, warm sun to get our pieces off the dry line lickety-split!
Q: What jobs have you done other than being an artist, and which one has been your favorite?
A: We\’ve both jumped around a lot. Sarah has spent time as an outdoor guide, a high school teacher abroad, a graphic designer, and the marketing director for a glass school—but the 5+ years she spent as Penland\’s digital media editor might have been the best 🙂 As for Em, she\’s taught textiles + technology to students, started a sewing pattern business, done freelance illustration for a whole slew of creative projects, and worked in some really incredible restaurants across the country. She even hosted a pop-up supper club at her home in Brooklyn, NY for a while!
Q: Is there a technique or skill that is unique to your work?
A: The way we approach screen printing and natural dyes is pretty unusual—we haven\’t encountered many other artists who screen print with thickened mordants, and we don\’t know of many natural dyers who take advantage of the range of mordant combinations to achieve so many different colors in a single dye pot on a single cloth. It\’s often a finicky process, but we haven\’t found another one that allows us so much freedom and precision in our patterns and imbues our pieces with such a material richness. We think our approach to collaboration is pretty unique, too! We pass our designs back and forth, each \”editing\” and tweaking them in turn until they\’re stronger than what either of us would have come up with individually.