Matt Katsaros Home + Studio Visit

San Francisco Fibershed Pop-Up
Saturday, September 9 | 12-4P
1400 Tennessee St. SF, CA 94110
Check out the event page here.

We are hosting a sustainable, wool based pop-up shop in collaboration with Fibershed to celebrate the transition into autumn. Featuring artisan speakers, workshops and a chance to win a curated raffle! Shop directly with Fibershed certified producers at this eco-friendly & local pop-up. You will get a chance to meet + chat with the artisans and farmers of our local landscape! 

To celebrate the upcoming event we checked in with vendor Matt Katsaros. Learn more about his sustainable efforts and don't forget to swing by the event to shop Matt's handmade products.

My name is Matt Katsaros, and I am a multi-disciplinary artist working out of the Outer Sunset in San Francisco.  Mainly my practice is grounded in the mediums of natural dyes and textiles, but I tend to focus on process tools and materials which often takes me into other mediums like wood/sculpture, printmaking and drawing.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in the hills of the Bay Area Peninsula, Los Altos Hills to be exact.  As long as I can remember, I have been pursuing creative endeavors. Most of high school, photography was a really big creative outlet for me.  One time I cleared out a shed in our backyard, took garbage bags and loads of duct tape and taped off every vent and crack of that shed to make it a completely light proof darkroom. I spent a summer trapping myself in that thing; it would be 95 degrees outside and absolutely boiling inside the shed.  I would take all my clothes off when I got in some days and just work away on my prints. A lot of what I was photographing was the landscape around my house in Los Altos Hills. When I finished prints, I would walk about 1/4 mile up the street to this small farm stand that mostly grew tomatoes and I'd sit under this redwood and wait for someone to come by to try and sell them a print.

Tell us about your brand. How did it begin?
Well, I started sewing in high school just playing around and learning to use the machine. In college, I was back home on vacation and decided to make a little backpack on my mom's machine. It wasn't very good and made from some lame materials, but it worked and led to another one a year later when that first one broke.  At some point, I wanted to see if I could actually make a version of this bag that was in my head, but I wasn't going to make it using my mom's home machine and materials from Joanne's. Also, in the making of that last bag I was banned from using my mom's machine because I "broke it" (I totally did not).  So, I went out and bought a proper sewing machine and found a place to get waxed canvas and I went to work. Three or four months later and after lots of iterations, I finally had a bag and a pattern I was proud of -- one that matched what had been in my head.

What is your involvement with Fibershed?
I was introduced to Rebecca and Fibershed in 2013 through an exhibit I was participating in at the Berkeley Art Museum called The Possible.  Though she had been many years into her project to grow indigo in our fibershed, this particular year was the first year she had gone big and tried to cultivate indigo at a large scale. I went up to help with the harvest for a weekend; later this indigo would be used as part of the exhibit at BAM.  Since then, I have been a member following along with their work, and in the last couple years as materials have become available that are conducive to the pieces I make I have become a Fibershed producer.

How did you decide to work with them?
Mostly out of my interest in process and materials in my art.  My pursuit of natural dyes was born of the same curiosity. I was using materials that came from a manufacturer in New Jersey, but I had never really spent time asking how they came to be -- it just seemed too big and complex to think about. Someone I now consider a dear friend, Deepa Natarajan, gave me a crash course on natural dyes and with that little bit of knowledge sparked the curiosity to really figure out how my materials come to exist. I started experimenting with natural dyes and gaining a good understanding of the last step before fabrics get to me. My interest in and involvement with Fibershed is just taking that curiosity and climbing further up the production chain. How do my fabrics get woven? How does the fiber get spun? How is the fiber produced? Luckily, Fibershed has insight into all of those questions.

We love that you use natural dyes. What have been the learning curves in exploring this medium?
Oh dang, that is why I love it so much. It is the EASIEST! You get a pot, put water in it, warm it up, add plants and fibers, wait and then it's done. Actually, you can just fill a jar with water, plants, and fiber and let it sit in the sun. So easy. I'm not saying this to diminish the work, experimentation, and precision that some natural dyers practice. You can definitely go deep, get super complicated, and get into the chemistry of it all which is amazing and fascinating. Folks like me just ride the coattails of those practitioners. But, I do love how easy it can be because it makes it so accessible and simple for new people to learn. The learning curve is as mellow or as steep as you want it to be.  I mean, just within those 6 steps above, you can start playing around and experimenting with the pots you use, the ph level of the water, the temperature of bath, etc. It's a really beautiful and flexible process that allows for lots of "mistakes".

You work with many different textiles; wood, leather, canvas, etc. Do you have a favorite?
It obviously changes, but my favorite this second is waxed canvas dyed in pine bark. I am using cotton canvas from Ryan at Huston Textiles, and dyeing it using pine bark and alum. It makes this really rich and beautiful tan -- a light orange-brown color. Then, I wax it using beeswax which just adds this amazing texture and richness to any dyed cloth you apply it to. Pine bark is one of my all time favorite dyes, partly because I have a strong association with the pine tree, partly because of the color it produces, but also because it's so easy to find and accessible for lots of people.

How does each natural material inspire your ideas?
The little bit of education I received on the process of natural dyes was a transformative shift in how I perceived the natural world around me. I knew what fennel was, I had eaten it before, and sometimes would smell licorice on a coastal hike that I vaguely knew was coming from fennel plants. But when I learned how strong and beautiful the dye is that comes from Fennel, I started looking for it to use in my studio. That's when I realized fennel is *everywhere*. This amazing material you can use for food and art and fashion is everywhere along the coast and highways of the Bay Area. I started pointing it out on drives with friends which maybe started to annoy them. This same story with fennel has been repeated with many other materials over the years.

How does California inspire your line + aesthetic?
The natural landscape of California is not just where I derive my inspiration but where I gather materials from.  As I deepen my relationship with Fibershed and their work progresses, this becomes more and more true. It isn't just dye plants I'm sourcing from California but the wool, cotton and the finished cloth. My work is a direct manifestation of life in California.

How does sustainability affect your brand decisions?
I've always had this idea in my head that the process of how things should be made should be maximally thoughtful and beautiful.  Most of the time, if someone is truly thoughtful with how they approach their craft they are answering or at least addressing questions of longevity, sustainability, and social issues surrounding their practice.  So, in my eyes, sustainability is key, but I think it is more than just doing things that save the planet.  For better or (mostly) worse, we are huge and complex set of systems that really need to work alongside one another.

What are your plans for Matt Katsaros Studio down the line?
I'm constantly trying out new materials and mediums which keeps me occupied. I have a show of drawings that I'm really excited about at The Perish Trust in March. For now, I'm working on lots of the usual -- cushions and bags of all kinds.  Oh, I'm also working on this shirt project using Khadi, an amazing fabric from India. That is really exciting.

What are your favorite Sunset neighborhood spots?

Hookfish Co.
A new addition to the neighborhood with the mission to bring transparency to consumers and empowerment to fisherman. They have local + sustainably farmed fish by the pound, or you can order off their menu. (Be sure to check out the custom cushion inside made by Matt!)

The Dunes
Though it's almost always foggy in the Sunset, the view from the beach is still worth the trip. Peaceful and serene, it's one of the best ways to start the day. Lucky for me, it's only a block away.

Chu Hardware Supply
From art projects to home renovations, this no-frills hardware store is always stocked with the exact item you need. Great and practical.

Judah St. Clinic Chiropractor
Behind the inspiring and welcoming aesthetic lays a thoughtful approach to healing the body through traditional chiropractic adjustments, applied kinesiology, functional neurology, and the zone healing method.

Kingdom Of Dumpling
For a well-priced, delicious meal in the heart of the Sunset, visit Kingdom Of Dumpling. Go for the soup dumplings and stay for the Tsingtao.