Teachers from around the Bay Area made their way to the far reaches of Occidental California for their first class in native plant natural dye work.  The class included an extensive presentation on land-use philosophy and process, weaving developmentally appropriate story and props into the classroom, and most importantly–the use of dye vats!

The class was full of interesting stories- and personal histories.  Many of the participants had created positions for themselves over the years as garden coordinators; feeling the draw to move out of the classroom and onto the land had motivated many to create and maintain school gardens.  The natural dye work, and the native plants are a useful adjunct to any garden curricula.  The hope is that all of our educational gardens will begin to illuminate not only food, but fiber, and color as well.

All of the teachers brought strips and samples of cotton fabric. I was teaching how you could do this in a school setting without high costs!

The toyon took well to the cotton.  We mordanted the same day that we dyed, and our results were quite good.  In schools- sometimes you’ll have the time to prep your materials, and sometimes it all might have to get done on the same day– seeing the mordant process is a great learning experience for the children and adults.

Great materials for plant pounding!  Also a great activity for the pre-schoolers.  The teachers who work with the little ones, were quite happy with this project.  The use of rocks instead of mallets was discovered– another great way to make it accessible to many children at one time.

One of my absolute favorite native species–CA sagebrush, proved to be as lovely pounded, as it is in the dye vat.  This was a great experiment, with incredible results.

On May 16th from 10am to 2pm, the Sangati Center of San Francisco’s Mission District will be hosting a first ever Natural Dye Workshop.  The center’s focus is to bring unamplified Indian Music to the community, and with 300 concerts a year– the center does an incredible job of bringing the music to the people.

The center is also a hub for traditional arts, and thus, what better a place could exist for a natural dye workshop?  The rich Indian history of textiles includes an incredible series of natural dye recipes.  We will honor our native landscape while taking inspiration from the Indian tradition with the use of indigo, as well as a peace silk that was raised, processed and woven in the Southern regions of India.

Native CA Toyon dye bath

Deepa Natarajan of the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden will be co-hosting this workshop.  Deepa has been creating a native garden at the Center, a beautiful vision of what can be done in an urban landscape.  We look forward to sharing this incredible day with you.  You can contact Deepa to sign up for the class natarajan.dp@gmail.com

If you live in the area, you are invited to the Fibershed Fundraiser and Presentation, held in Piedmont, CA.  Just RSVP before hand to Katherine @ 510 465-9439.  It is a wonderful event, illuminating, educating, and accompanied by wonderful food and people.

If you would like to know more about the Fibershed– this new radio broadcast of the project, I highly recommend checking it out.  Fibershed Radio Click Here.

The banks of the last central Californian Salmon run–a young man stands on the edge of the Lagunitas creek.  He was accompanied by a group of 20 exquisite sixth graders.  We spent a limited amount of time together– just a few hours, surprisingly it was plenty of time to shed the effects of the long car ride from the body, the squirmy response to bugs, and initial trepidation of moving from their urban homeland and onto the land.  I asked the students as they were about to leave, what they would like to see on this site if they were to come back in ten years… a big question, but one they had no problem answering.

After this was taken the students spent a few final moments standing on logs, looking into the clear fresh water. This creek had a return of 66 salmon this year, and I’m grateful for those fish that made it.  And yet, with a population that used to be thousands upon thousands strong– the situation does engender a mix of sadness and hope simultaneously.

Students show coffeeberry scarves in front of that very plant, that was recently placed into the new 'Rain-drop Dye Garden' at the SPAWN gounds

As more young people are given opportunities to get into the ecosystem, and process it through the sensory experiences provided through the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic systems– the more the land is embedded into their awareness–an unforgettable collage of native plant colors, warm mud, draping arroyo willow branches, and the promise of salmon is created and woven in memory and will inspire untold and infinite small actions.

Preparing for the toyon and coffeeberry dye vats