Unfurling with Margaret Seelie

We take pride in collaborating with many skilled people to bring together rad items we know you’ll love. Working with others is our favorite and today we want to highlight the woman behind all of the beautiful dye work you see on many of our wraps and smocks. Margaret Seelie is a writer and artist based in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in Outside, The Surfer’s Journal, Jezebel, and more. She publishes an intersectional surf zine called Seawitches. Margaret loves dyeing things with plants including but not limited to indigo, avocado, eucalyptus, and beets. Today we are happy to share a little background as to how Margaret found her calling as a writer and artist as well as how she and Ashley Lloyd started working together many years ago.


Margaret & Ashley choosing dye colors & materials for Unfurling

You’ve been co-creating with Ashley, the founder of Unfurling, in various ways...how did you meet and what do you think draws you to each other and keeps you wanting to continue the friendship?

I met Ashley on the beach at Pleasure Point in 2013. It’s an embarrassing story: I was about to paddle out when she walked by carrying a beautiful longboard. I saw the name of the shaper and proceeded to gush over how much I loved their boards – this went on for five minutes. Finally I asked, “So, do you like that board?” to which she replied, “I sure hope so, I made it.” She invited me to come by her shaping bay sometime – an invitation I accepted that day. 

I became Ashley’s board-building apprentice about the same time I started experimenting with indigo dye. Living in a small apartment in San Francisco made dyeing difficult so sometimes I would set up my dye studio in Ashley’s board-building factory. I’d dye deck patches for Ashley; I have an indigo inlay on a longboard I still ride today. When she told me about Unfurling Life and asked me to dye some fabric, I was super stoked. 


Ashley cutting Margaret's hand dyed indigo fabric for her surfboard

Deck patch made by Margaret for Ashley.  Photo credit: Margaret Seelie


How has your traveling fed your creative side?

I got my passport at 14. Growing up in Ohio, I developed a love of adventure on family trips to Ireland and abroad. Since then, I’ve backpacked across Asia and Europe, hitchhiked from Alaska to San Francisco, and lived abroad in China and Australia. Now, I mostly travel to good warm-water waves. I guess these trips and experiences fed my creativity with inspiration and instilled in me the courage to be creative.


Margaret and local ripper with her hand dyed indigo deck patch surfboard

Me and local ripper Yarzarxx Ram Sal. That was the trip I lugged the 9'6 log I shaped with Ashely to this remote break (worth it!).” -Margaret Seelie. Photo provided by Margaret Seelie.


I kinda taught myself how to write on the road. I’d always kept a journal but it wasn’t until I moved to China and started sending email updates of my travels to a big list of friends and family that people started urging me to write and share more. They said they loved my stories and that was super encouraging. It planted the seed to someday become a writer.

When I finally set down roots in California, my travels gave me the courage to be creative. I went back to school for my MFA in creative writing, even though I’m a terrible speller, and went on to teach writing. Even today, when I’m dyeing fabric for Unfurling and I don’t get the exact results I want, I remember that in traveling, life, and creative work we just have to be forgiving and keep trying. 


Nature dye sample card painted by Margaret Seelie


You make it clear that the health of the earth is an important consideration when you create. How did you come to be eco conscious?

If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you I was born that way. But really, it’s how they raised me. Screen time, which back then was basic TV and VHS movies, was strictly limited in our house. So growing up, my brother, sister, and I were always outside. Sailing and swimming in summer, hiking and camping in fall, sledding. At the time I wanted to be like my friends with TVs in their bedrooms, but looking back it was a really awesome way to grow up. 


Margaret Seelie and family camping

“I'm the one in the bottom right, my brother is about to throw a stone, and my sister is top left. And our good family friends, Billy and Mary.” -Margaret Seelie.  Photo provided by Margaret Seelie


Margaret Seelie as a kid sailing

“Me as a kid in sail camp. I was the skipper of this 4-person boat on Lake Erie.” -Margaret Seelie. Photo provided by Margaret Seelie.


As you grow older, you learn about pollution and climate devastation. In sixth grade, I ran for commissioner of ecology because I believed there was no greater cause in the universe more important or worthy of my support than saving the planet – I still feel that way.

What are your shared passions with Ashley?

We are both passionate about protecting our planet. I have always admired her commitment to environmentalism and her creative approach to making it happen. I’ll never forget swapping stories with Ashley about dumpster-diving for art supplies. We were practically finishing each other's sentences; like, “Why would we buy new when there’s perfectly good materials heading to the landfill?” That was a really fun conversation because not many people go to such extremes to reuse. I’ve also loved getting to watch her journey to motherhood and witness how that has shaped her approach to board building and sustainability. 

Now she’s applying her creative approach to sustainability in a fashion context, which is really exciting. I mean, surfboards are bad for the environment, but she found a way to make them more eco-friendly. I’m grateful to be on this journey with her.


Margaret & Ashley sharing a laugh over the funny smells of some natural dyes.


How do you and Ashley challenge each other to keep getting better at your crafts?

With Unfurling, Ashley has given me this canvas to create on (the fabric) and the philosophy behind her company to consider. Typically plant dyeing is done on a small scale on things like napkins or bandanas. But Ashley is using large, towel-sized, items which can create a challenge or an opportunity, depending on how you look at it. I saw it as an opportunity to create big patterns that reflect the philosophy and vibe Unfurling. 

The moon pattern represents a fullness in creation. The mermaid’s hair taps into the mythical possibility we all have to create. And of course, the general watery vibe is the essence of Unfurling. I’m always looking to mother nature for inspiration and I’m curious where she’ll take us on this journey.


Mermaid Hair Hand Dye pattern by Margaret Seelie

Mermaid’s Hair dye pattern in indigo by Margaret Seelie


Do you have any goals with your work that you hope to achieve in the next 5-10 years?

In the next 5-10 years, I’d love to quit my day job to become a full-time artist, teacher, and magazine editor. 

I hope I’m still dyeing fabric for Unfurling and by extension helping folks connect to nature and explore sustainable fashion practices. I’d love to teach more writing and dyeing workshops to help others unfurl their creative practices – preferably on surf retreats to foreign lands. And it would be really great to get funding so my little surf magazine, Seawitches Zine, can grow up into a large-scale platform for us to tell our own stories in our own words. 

What is your advice for creatives who might find themselves a little stuck? How do you think someone can break through a creative wall and discover their next evolution?

Make something for someone else. Paint a postcard for your mom. Volunteer at a creative organization or non-profit. Donate your creative services to someone who needs them. Just do something that is bigger than you. The joy you will feel from helping others will motivate you to keep making and will probably change your creative practice for the better. 


Margaret unveiling one of the first dye patterns on an Unfurling Surfer’s Smock to Ashley.