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Meet Our New Community Coordinator: Korie Ellis-St. Pierre

Backdrop was hand dyed with flowers on silk

Meet Groundwork’s newest Community Coordinator! From dreaming of teaching to navigating the bustling city life, single parenthood, and a love affair with art and science, Korie’s story unfolds like a tapestry of life’s unexpected adventures. Join her as she shares the ups and downs of her path, leading to the launch of her Natural Dyeing business, Falling off Trees. As Korie brings her unique perspective as an artist and natural dyer to Groundwork, she’s excited to explore the creative community and share her ideology of “making the most of what’s around.” Read on to hear more about Korie’s family, art, sustainability initiatives, and the exciting journey ahead at Groundwork.

What led you here? Give us a short summary of your life journey up to this point.

Everything I’ve ever done has led me here.

When I was younger, I was pretty set on being a teacher. I helped care for my sister/cousins at a young age, worked with kids throughout my high school years, and was a private nanny. This led me to Bridgewater State University to study Elementary Education. After a couple years of feeling unaligned, I left school against my parents’ requests and decided to venture out into the city.

I began working at a busy restaurant/bar in downtown NB in my early 20’s which formed many friendships, nightlife memories, and the ability to use my voice without being scared. I coexisted with more personalities than I had ever been exposed to, which took me through quite an adventure of understanding the complexities of human beings. By the time I was 24, I became a single parent to my oldest son, which acted as a catalyst into loving someone unconditionally, sacrificing beyond my own desires, and becoming the nurturing adult that my tiny human deserved.

Throughout these years, I found and followed my love of both art and science. I began expressing myself through painting, fashion, connecting with plants, and educating myself on plant-based nutrition. These series of events led me to my now husband (Liv), who was living in Brooklyn, NY at the time. We spent some time exploring a long distance partnership: collaborating when we were together while honoring the individual space that distance provides when we were apart. Spending all of this time in Brooklyn heavily inspired me both artistically and personally. It opened my eyes to the beautiful polarity that a big city has to offer, feeling both limitless and small at the very same time. About two years later, we found out that we were having identical twins. He relocated and together we decided that New Bedford would be our base.

I stayed home with our three young children during this time, navigating how to domestically nurture an entire family without losing myself in the process (this could be a whole blog itself). During my homemaker role, my hands were always holding, soothing, washing and cooking. I learned to grow my own food, experimented with plant-based recipes, worked on a farm, and truly connected with the materials at my fingertips. In early 2020, I stumbled across Natural Dyeing; the process of creating color from natural resources. I was newly inspired to explore my own creativity within a whole new realm of color, plants, and textiles. What my family and I consumed, soon became material for a medium I would fall absolutely in love with.

In the early stages of my practice, I played with materials on-hand: kitchen food scraps. Onion skins produced the most delicious yellows and leftover tea bags created beautiful tan hues on my childrens’ tiny clothing. Family and friends began encouraging my practice by donating their own kitchen scraps, studio equipment, and fabric. Having an abundance of materials in such a short time was so impactful to my practice and simultaneously, crafted a true sense of community. I must acknowledge how important these offerings were to me. Thank you all so much.

Over the next couple of years, I continued learning from master dyers, planted dye gardens in our front yard, and launched my own small Natural Dyeing business Falling off Trees. Since I do not have a background in business, I decided to apply and was accepted into the E for All Program as a part of their Summer 2023 Cohort, held at Groundwork, which ultimately led me here. I am extremely thankful for each human that I have met along the way as they each have played an integral role in shaping and manifesting this new experience.

Present day, I am continuing to organically grow Falling off Trees through expanding my knowledge of natural color, teaching workshops, and collaborating with other incredible artists. My goal of this practice is to bring awareness to the impact that fashion has on our environment, and do my part as a natural dyer to “make the most of what’s around” through color and regenerative design. One of my greatest accomplishments has been exposing my children to the color potential that exists all around, planting seeds of hope and wonder that I didn’t find until I was an adult. Our walks together have forever changed, with eyes wide open and posing the question “do you think this will make color?”

What are some of the things you’ve learned working in the different environments you’ve worked in up to this point?

A few takeaways I find important to me: 

  1. Multi-tasking is not nearly as efficient as having an extra set of hands.
  2. The ability to clearly communicate what you need, without compromising another person’s wellbeing is an invaluable skill.
  3. It is both a privilege and a heavy weight to have tiny eyes on you at all times. Children are grand teachers just as much as they are students of life; at times, I would argue they are much smarter than adults. 
  4. Every person you meet will help you get to where you want to be if you use the opportunity to let them. This goes for both good and bad interactions.
  5. My greatest ideas have come when collaboration with another person, specifically women.

What excites you about working at Groundwork?

Both locations of Groundwork are quite different and I’m looking forward to analyzing how each space operates. Fall River gives off this “speakeasy” vibe that reminds me of being in Brooklyn. The New Bedford location is very expansive, energetic, and creative. I’m excited to be a part of a team that holds true to their values, treating each other with respect and patience. It’s lovely to be a part of a community where many different people dance between working separately and collaborating together. I am eager to learn how I can both participate and contribute. 

What inspires you right now? What are you listening to, watching, or reading?

Some of my current inspirations:

  1. “The Creative Act” by Rick Rubin.
  2. Music by Orion Sun, Caribou, and Toro y Moi.
  3. Studying Human Design according to Jenna Zoe.
  4. Plants that grow out of concrete cracks.
  5. Revisiting projects in my dye studio that I really hate and trying to figure out ways to reuse the materials.

What skills or experience are you looking forward to sharing with our members?

I am very much looking forward to sharing my ideology of “make the most of what’s around.” Being an artist and natural dyer, my way of viewing everyday materials is quite romanticized. I can look at a pile of recycled paper/cardboard and imagine it being a flower press. I look at the leftover coffee grinds and get curious about how they can be transformed and used within the Groundwork space. However, I’m mostly just looking forward to the connections and partnerships that will be made and seeing how it all unfolds.

Raelyn Couto