The spring dye season began at the Filoli Estate in Woodside this year.  Expansive meadows, riparian ecosystems, oak studded woodlands… a perfect place for our first and semi-rainy day of dye work.

We painted with crushed stone and fruit inks… and then immersed our work in dye vats of the season.

The water laden plants created a soft palate whose tones looked so much like our surroundings.

The experiments continued throughout the afternoon, the playful samples kept coming…

The following week, I was off to the schools.. this lovely piece was done by an 8th grade crew working on re-purposing their thrift store finds during a week of Eco-chic explorations.

These T-shirts were in their first phase of being refurbished… the students used shibori techniques with tongue depressors and coffee stirrers.  Next step: embroidery, and sewing.

The whole collection, inspired from the spring recipe for Logwood!

Gorgeous colors came from our Bay Area Discovery Museum dye day– the bright yellow emerged from distaff dye pots.  Every child’s favorite color!  It also happens to be a species that our open space districts, national parks, and other land management agencies are spraying with herbicides to remove… I much prefer dye making from such a plant.  I recommend the master dye bath recipe, as well as an alkaline after bath.  

Into the distaff dye pot went our little flags.

Out came the brightest yellow!  Everyone was so pleased.

We pounded colors from our cultivated gardens into our distaff colored fabric swatches.  We used the spring dye starter recipe from the new book Harvesting Color.  This particular project is perfect for children and adults seem to love it too.

The end result…. little pounded distaff dyed cloths!
More spring dyes to come… with these late spring rains, their will be so much to harvest!

The Art of Native Ink

April 24, 2011

The first dye series of its kind was taught at the Regenerative Design Institute this Spring– classes steeped in processes created from the very landscape surrounding our dye pots and ink vats.  Coffeeberry, Toyon, and Coyote Brush were harvested by our team of eco-art explorers.

We began on a rainy day for our harvest… we gave each plant a clean-up and nice little prune.

We made our modifiers and mordants through the crushing of galls from our native black oak.  A beautiful and renewable binding agent.

The copper pots were put to good use to patina our colors…. they have masterful results with the native plants.

We began to experiment with home made screens– images originally drawn by an artist and designer friend, Sierra Reading of the California College of the Arts.  The images of Pokeberry and Black Walnut (both dye plants), looked quite beautiful in our coffeeberry ink.

The Pokeberry image was created with coffeeberry ink on a toyon dyed cotton fabric

A lovely hand-cut printing block was used to make this design.

The class was intently creative….

Painting leaves proved to be an exquisite way to print…

We shared our blocks and leaves with one another.

We also created some gorgeous prints without the use of blocks– just using bay leaf, eucalyptus, rubber bands, and iron rich waters.

Thank you to all of the class members– your art was and is an inspiration!

Thank you to Michael Keefe for your continuous stream of good photography and support:

For more pics of our workshop:  See the Smug Mug Site

Winter Wardrobe Reclamation

February 8, 2011

A cold and rainy winter morning blossomed like a meadow of wild color as we dipped and stirred our clothes into botanical brews.  Dr. Sara Gottfried hosted a fabulous wardrobe reclamation at her Oakland home.  The vats of steaming plant matter wafted like tea, and the hot water warmed our chilly fingers and hands.

The coffeeberry yielded a magical greenish yellow.  The branches and leaves came from a local ranch where a big pruning had just taken place.

We also made use of the Valley Oak’s renewable gifts.. the galls create an incredibly steely gray color.  At this time of year they can still be found dangling from the barren branches.  Known as ‘an apartment building’ for insect life, the galls host a plethora of tiny species in the larval stages during the autumn.

Toyon branches were collected from another pruning job.  Leaving the berries for bird food is normally best… but if they are trimmed from the tree for the reasons of a landowner, they can be used in a dye pot to add a little added orange hue to the color.

A lucky find of coreopsis was at the local farmer’s market, and was purchased just before the workshop began.  The flowers create a beautiful and very strong orange dye almost instantaneously.

Dr. Sara Gottfried dyes a pole-wrapped garment

Dr. Gottfried’s dye work is a small step in support of  her overall efforts to wear and eat organic this year.  Her organic experiment, as it is known, began January 1st of 2011.  I’ve loved reading her blog: http://drgottfried.blogspot.com/.  It is a journal that weaves together her life as a wearer and eater of organic, as well as a doctor, a hormone expert, a mother, and an astute barometer for inspiring and eye opening books.

Her evolving journey rings so true and resonant to experiences I’ve had in the Fibershed project.  I also completely adore her entries on female hormones, burnout, and thyroid malfunction and its causes…. all very pertinent for those of us who tend to burn the candle at both ends.  The entry that grabbed me recently was her description of receiving a garment in the depths of the winter temperatures.  The organic experiment took time to evolve, and winter was already here.  After a week or more of coldness…

All changed yesterday when my organic, fair-trade sweater showed up in the mail. The world brightened. Slipped it on at the UPS store. Fit gloriously and within seconds.” –Dr. Gottfried

Left: Rebecca Burgess wears Sally Fox cotton pants, fennel vest, toyon neck cowl, and an oak gall shirt. Right: Sara Gottfried wears a fully organic outfit, jacket was locally designed and sewn

Self-imposed limitation creates this kind of gratitude and joy.  I know this feeling so well.  It is a pleasure and a gift to be able to share this feeling with Sara.  I feel a sense of respect and total admiration for her efforts and journey.  It’s good work, not always easy but incredibly worthwhile.

This experiment means supporting the movement away from that which has the potential to disrupt our most sacred balance, and personal energy resources.  To remove the synthetic compounds from our diet and clothing is a process of giving ourselves those things we are intrinsically designed for–natural fibers, and clean food.  Good for the inside, good for the outside.

Thank you Sara for inspiring, illuminating, and teaching through what you know, and most importantly, what you do.

Thank you Madeleine Tilin for you amazing photography!

Toyon & Chromatography

January 9, 2011

 

Have you ever wanted to assess the plant species in your region for natural dye capability?  I certainly have! I also have had the interest to see if there are colors that I have not achieved in the dye vat that are secretly hiding out somewhere… waiting for the right protocol.  For these reasons I started collaborating with a local biology professor and doing some very basic chromatography experiments.

Through the harvest of just a handful of plant material you can conduct a simple experiment to see what colors lay beneath the surface.

Here lay three handspun toyon dyed skeins, and s sprig of the plant, along with a chromatography strip.    The definition of chromatography… ‘a process used for separating mixtures by virtue of differences in absorbency’…

The chromatography strips created with toyon leaves were representative of many of the colors that I have already discovered.  The bulk of the color on the strip is a rusty orange– which is a common color achieved with toyon dye.  Towards the end of the strip, there is a small area of pink— a very new and curious color!

I began to play with the water of cooked berries (which are edible if roasted or boiled), and achieved these colors (as seen below)..

These pinks were abundantly available from the berry water, and showed up on linen, silk, and cotton samples.  My question was if it was possible to achieve the pink tones without the use of berries, (I prefer not to use berries for dye– because they are such a nice food source for birds and people).

This experiment is being continued… and was further explored at the seaside day of dyes.  I brought toyon leaves and stems that had soaked on slow heat for days..and within a copper pot.  Something about the copper, ocean water, and leaves, all combined– yielded some exquisite results, far beyond a simple orange or pink.. the color lived somewhere between the two.  If I had not experimented with the chromatography I’d have had no sense that these colors were possible… the beauty of the scientific process, is that it shows you what might be available to you in the dye pot.  You are, of course, then left with how to achieve those results, and that is often where the fun begins.

The experimenting continues.. and if you’d like to try your own chromatography experiment:

Grind 5 or 6 leaves in mortar and pestle

Cover the leaves in alcohol (medical grade)

Let sit for 24 hours or longer

Pour liquid into a test tube

Place chromatography paper into the test tube, cover, and wait

I recommend several days, even a week of absorption before removing the paper

Its a bit cold, and as you can see from this picture.. it’s dark too!  The winter has moved many dye processes inside.  As it started to rain a few moments ago, I pulled everything off the dry line and moved into the studio/garage.  The wool has just come from a dye bath of vinegar and my frozen pokeberry harvest.  (My gorgeous 7 ft. tall plant, was dripping with berries this last autumn), I froze them and was waiting for the perfect wool to dye them in.  These skeins are from Reba, a lovely merino sheep who lives in Mendocino County, CA.

The letter K is a screen print that my brother and I created for my mother (Kerry), for Christmas.  I made a glorious ink with galls from a very manganese rich soil.  This ink has become a silk screen dream. I am very happy with the outcome.  It can undergo all kinds of washing and still hold a solid slate gray tone.

As you can see here the pokeberry wasn’t the only dye color I used.  As I began to exhaust the bath, the pink turned lighter and lighter, so I quickly dipped a few of these into my indigo vat– giving a modeled and violet hue to the wool.  I can’t wait to see this wool turn into the designer dress that its being created for!  More on that later..

 

Indigo in the Rain

December 18, 2010

It’s a rainy Saturday, the gray and blue of my surroundings have inspired me to the indigo vat.  This is a French linen for the designer Heidi Iverson.  We are collaborating on Fibershed projects, and this dye work is apart of our trading process.  I have dipped her dress a couple of times so far, and was moderately happy with the results.  I dip the garment 1/3 at a time, due to the size of the vat, and the quantity of linen.  As I keep re-dipping, the blues are deepening, and the variegation lines are becoming more pronounced.  It’s a beautiful process to say the least.

The dress hangs above the forest floor– which is graced with a native sedge that I have yet to identify, but am so in love with.  The creek was running full this morning, I awoke to the sound of water pouring over rocks– when I went outside the air temperature was surprisingly warm.  It is such a blessing to be in the forest, and watch the water absorb into the soil, grass, and creeks.

The little creek that runs through the land, making an abrupt turn just before the house.  I am settling into my new home, becoming familiar with the new climate, the plant life, the fauna.. it is an inspirational environment; from which I intend to create many beautiful colors to share with you as the season progresses…

First Indigo Workshop

November 5, 2010

 

Our indigo crop at Mt. Barnabe

Indigo is being harvested for both seed, and there is some very nice fresh leaf in the field— still perfect for the making of sukomo (indigo balls).  In honor of the harvest, we had our first indigo workshop at the Regenerative Design Institute.  It was well attended, by a very talented group of artists, professional designers, permaculturalists, and teachers.

Everyone had the opportunity to clean their own seeds, and take home some of the fresh Polygonum tinctorium for their own home gardens.  Growing our own blue is a step toward a regenerative color base, that is not reliant on unhealthy concentrations of heavy metals– or petroleum by-products.

Along with immersion processes, we also made an indigo paint for use as a surface design feature.

Here, indigo is painted onto a hemp cotton.. the oxidation occurs after the brushwork is complete.  Turning your work from a yellowish green, to a deep blue, right before your eyes.

Indigo Paint was used here over an immersion dip in a fermentation vat.

This creative piece was constructed with both shibori techniques and beeswax batik processes.

A shibori heart- made by a true resist dyeing professional!

Gorgeous batik… dipped in fermentation indigo.

Another example of a batik process dipped in fermentation indigo.

As we left the Regenerative Design Institute a fresh harvest of apples, greens, and goat’s milk whey had been lovingly displayed, for us all to enjoy, and take home.

On the way home, through the Bolinas Mesa.. enjoying the sunset through the bank of fog.

Thank you Erin, Penny, and all of you wonderful participants!

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