Introducing our brand new Artist Series featuring the very talented Gretchen of Mama Ochre — a carefully curated brand dying garments with her signature Milk Paint. Gretchen is passionate about all things sustainability and giving garments a second life!
We absolutely adore your mission towards sustainability and repurposing pieces to avoid them ending up in landfills, what led you to this point? Sustainability has always been a core value in my brand identity, but the ways in which it has shown up have changed. I’ve been a thrifter since birth, with a mother that can’t pass a goodwill without stopping for “a quick second” we spent a lot of time searching the racks. When I started Mama Ochre, my focus was solely vintage clothing, specifically natural textiles like cotton, linen and silk in a neutral palette. So many of the pieces I would find had blemishes, but I saw the quality in them and this encouraged me to start dyeing. The first piece I ever dyed was a corduroy jacket that I threw in the washer and used a color remover packet on to try and remove the stains, and when I pulled it out it was this beautiful pattern, very similar to my current Milkpaint style. I was in love with the irregularity, and that inspired me to recreate it more intentionally through different color palettes. The one aspect that I wanted to include was size inclusivity, so I spent over a year searching for a sustainable blanks company to add a more accessible range to my existing offerings. I found an amazing company that is based in the United States and not only has a focus on sustainability by using recycled cotton fibers, but also pays their workers fair wages, which are all very important to me when buying new. Everything from the garment to the package used to ship it is all recycled or compostable, and that is something I won’t waiver on despite the higher price tag from start to finish.
Tell us about your creative process and how you best tap into creating? I do all of my creating at my little house that sits in the middle of 7 acres of farmland. My biggest inspiration by far is nature. My studio is outdoors, open air, full of sunshine and chirping birds. When I’m out there, I lose track of time. Through working alone, I’ve realized that everything can be meditation, whether it's hanging wet clothes on the clothesline, pouring hot water from my favorite blue glass pitcher, or carrying a load of clothes to be dyed in the vintage butter colored laundry basket that made me run across goodwill to grab. By intentionally making each part of the process meaningful, it makes it easier to stop and remember how grateful I am for all of it. This work has allowed me to take space for myself, be intentional, slow down, work barefoot, and ground with the earth, so that I can center enough to intuitively create. So much of art is energy that is either free flowing or forced, and the freer I allow myself to be, the more satisfying the end result is.
We love the softness and cloud-like look of your dyed pieces — did it take time to find your signature milky pink and white look? Yes! The dye process itself took a lot of trial and error, and I went back and forth with different dye methods. The Strawberry Milk colorway was the first consistent color in the dye process, and quickly became the signature. When I started with the neutrals, my personal wardrobe was also very monochromatic. It was not on purpose that pink took over Mama Ochre, and actually quite an accident. But pink represents the inner journey of the heart and brings us to an emotional state of acceptance. Now that I've added pink and matcha green to my own palette as well as the business’, I do truly see the balancing nature of both, and their calming properties. It’s interesting how things flow through you when you need them.
Has your relationship with your art / your creativity shifted at all since 2020, how so? The initial shock of lockdown was extremely hard for me, because I’d been a nonstop yes person my whole life. But once I settled into the idea, I started to flow through it, and began pulling out old art supplies, and pieces from my own closet to dye since I couldn’t source vintage, with no real plan other than to stay occupied. On one of those days, the milkpaint process was born. I had always been a creative person, but mostly for myself and my family, doing DIYs, going all out for party decor, making earrings, working with clay and all sorts of other random projects like home renovation. I hadn’t put that creativity into my business besides for branding and aesthetic to curate a vibe with my neutral boho vintage. Once in lockdown, it was like the fear of missing out was gone, the invitations were gone, the parties ceased, and life as I knew it stopped, which allowed me to prioritize creating. Not just for my business, but for myself, to keep my head above water in the uncertainty of the pandemic. And what started as the new path for my business, led to a path of self discovery along the way that I’m eternally grateful for. 2020 was the hardest year of my life, not only because of the pandemic, but also because I lost my father who raised me as a single dad. I lost my rock, so I had to learn how to be my own. It was the year of so much growth and understanding, and I think that naturally translated into a more authentic path for myself and my art.
What are you listening / watching / reading that have you completely inspired right now? I’ve been hooked on a podcast called “Expanded with Lacy Phillips” that focuses on reprogramming limiting subconscious beliefs while working with neuroscience to manifest your wholly authentic life. I love the scientific approach to a mostly spiritual/positive mindset theory like manifestation and it’s been a big help for me this past year. I also always have Women Who Run With The Wolves on my nightstand and read that off and on, despite having read it through because that book is so sacred to me and very inspiring on getting back in touch with your wild nature. My latest binge watch that weirdly inspired me to look back at my own life was “Maid” on netflix. Most people probably don’t know, but I was a single mom at 19 the fall after I graduated high school, and so much of my life up until this point was persisting and proving that I could provide a stable home for a baby at such a young age, and Maid was non stop a similar story and very enthralling.
How do you channel positive energy through a season of change? I think the best advice I have on channeling positive energy is by being fully present as much as humanly possible. Even in the most uncertain of times, the thoughts that flood your mind are simply that, thoughts, and usually the negative ones pertain to something in the past or future that you can’t control. Focusing on these thoughts, and believing they are true, blocks out the ability to be present in the moment. I focus on intentionality as much as I can, by keeping my space tidy and meaningful, and focusing on the things I am grateful for. Taking it moment by moment.
Your favorite album to play in the background while working? I actually have a playlist called “Milk” that I listen to while I’m working. It has a little bit of everything from Frank Ocean to Rainbow Kitten Surprise on it, which keeps me dancing and flowing but also isn’t too fast paced or distracting. But my go-to album if I put one on is When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? because Billie Eilish is my guilty pleasure, haha, shhhhh.
In collaboration, Gretchen dyed our Oat Milk Utility Suits with her Milk Paint — Noble x Mama Ochre suits now available!
*Preorders close 10/28 and will take an estimated 3 weeks to ship from when orders are placed.