Dyeing and Middle School

January 15, 2010

When the middle school group found out we’d be dyeing, the jokes began… ‘I’m too young to go’, ‘We are dying.. at school?’.  I presented my powerpoint on natural dyes for them, and they were extremely animated as we poured through pictures of coal tar processing plants and synthetic dye houses, and then made comparisons to the natural dye studios and the dye crops.  The questions began rolling in, ‘Can we dye black’, ‘I’d like to dye the Mexican flag, how do I do that?’, ‘Can you show me how to make purple?’

Then we discussed the native plant connection, and that the colors we’d be making were from native species.  They had just learned about native and invasive species in science class earlier that day. I had prepared two of my favorite winter native species, toyon and coffeeberry for them.

I showed them how to create a shibori patterns on their silk scarves.  As they tied rocks, sticks, and rubber bands to their pieces they became completely engaged with the creative process, and particularly interested in developing pattern.  The patterns and shapes reminded them of certain body parts, and this kept them all very entertained.  Once they began removing things from the dye vat, they were transfixed. ‘This is awesome!’, ‘Do I get to keep this?’

This particular piece was a complete experiment in pattern.  I have never seen anything quite like it.

As the sun began to set behind the San Rafael hills, the questions came like a lovely refrain, ‘When are you coming again?’,

‘Next time bring blue’, and ‘Can we do a whole day?’

My response, ‘I would love to- and yes, I’ll bring blue’

Thank you North Bay Conservation Core for inviting me to work with this wonderful and well-humored group of young people.  If anyone lives in the Bay Area and would like to attend an incredible community event- I suggest going to the community and school garden building day at Martin Luther King Middle School in Marin City on January 18th.  I believe Carlos Santana will be performing, and food and drink is available for volunteers.  Check out the Conservation Core  website for more info!

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