Dye Day at Berkeley Botanic Garden

March 31, 2010

The temperature was perfect, the sun just right, sweet smelling toyon, coffeeberry, and coyote brush dye vats wafted into the afternoon air.  The thick smell of black walnuts (which have been soaking since last fall), did overpower the senses a bit– an aroma that crosses somewhere between old seaweed, and a compost pile.  It is actually a nice smell– very earthy, just a bit pungent.

Deepa Natarajan the Berkeley Botanical Garden education coordinator with Susan Kuehn the coordinator for the San Francisco Garden for the Environment

The group of 17 women coalesced creatively amongst the native plant colors– and the blues of the fermenting indigo vat.  The participants level of expertise within this field spanned from commercial textile designers–natural paint makers–scientific illustrators–to professional felters. I was so inspired, and grateful for the advanced level of awareness that was brought to this workshop.  We could have spent at least two days simply networking and weaving our skill base together, to bring forth a natural color and fiber revolution.

A handwoven hemp– roughly retted and then woven on back strap looms by the Karen women of North Western Thailand, dyed in our native toyon dye bath.

A beautiful example of Indigo on silk– with the use of a bundling shibori resist technique.

Black walnut browns over dyed with fermented indigo.

A blend of many dips in many baths- including eucalyptus, indigo, and possibly one other species…

A well organized compilation of samples– raw hemp, organic cotton, and blends of both fibers, dyed in the native species, as well as eucalyptus.

Samples were a challenge to extract, with so many floating and submerged within the pots.  There are always a few little pieces that show up at the end of the day, as I’m cleaning and re-pouring the dyes.

Thank you Berkeley.. The biological diversity of the garden was deeply reflected in the diversity of talent, capacity for understanding, and depth of interest of all those who came. I enjoyed myself so much- and am excited for our future collaborations.

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2 Responses to “Dye Day at Berkeley Botanic Garden”

  1. velma Says:

    how exciting! what a day you must have had. the sampling photos are enticing, the last pic and the one green-based with the wonderful odd lines in it–super.


  2. Rebecca, I am so crushed that I missed this workshop. It looked like it was such a beautiful experience. I am good friends with Deepa, and Im crazy with joy looking at your work. I just got an old Swedish loom and can’t wait to get started. I hope that soon I can spend some time with you. I will make a point of connecting with you.


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