Heart’s Desire

June 22, 2010

Heart’s desire beach was the location of the 6th consecutive workshop that I led last week.  I do apologize for the lack of posts.  Summer becomes a busy time of teaching, planting, watering, and tending.   In general the solstice brings so much more activity than any time of year– more light, means more time in the day to do things, and it seems there is so much to do…

I worked with Environmental Traveling Companions out at the State Park along Tomales Bay for a one day dye workshop.  These young adults from Oakland, San Francisco, and Napa are selected to take a 24 day road trip throughout California, as a means to build leadership skills, get out into nature, and create community through peaceful and conscious communication.

We used two of my favorite native species– Toyon and Sticky Monkey Flower.  The toyon had been brewing since the winter months, and the Sticky Monkey was freshly harvested at a ranch in West Marin.  The students went on a walk through the park with me to identify the native species that we were using for our vats.  We discussed how the use of local resources can offset our need for foreign and synthetic substances.  We also discussed how the practice of using these native species, done in conjunction with propagating them, enhances biodiversity, and awareness of indigenous habitat.

Some students dipped their scarves in both vats for a two-toned effect.

Toyon with a creative use of shibori patterning.

Toyon and Sticky Monkey in the wind hanging on coffeeberry bushes..

Students then used a combination of earth pigments and soy milk to make natural paints that they then used to paint onto their cotton squares.  They are creating a collaborative quilt with messages about their experience on this long 24 day journey that they are now embarking upon with one another.

These were messages that the students quietly reflected upon, and then began to paint.  These were their thoughts, and their mantras..

Toyon dyed cotton, with iron mud paint.

Done with a very fine bamboo brush…

The young people said it all.  Not much to add to this body of wisdom.

Thank you ETC for such an incredible day– I wish you many happy and awe inspiring days on your journey.

Restoration Art Forms

June 9, 2010

The students at the Lagunitas School took part in an interdisciplinary process of ecological restoration, natural dye making, and weaving this year.  To source our raw materials we ventured into the restoration site that exists just outside the student’s classroom.  We planted, tended, dyed and wove…

This is a group of second and third grade students from the Waldorf Inpsired classroom.  Their older brothers and sisters planted native plants over the last two years within an area of compacted soil, and poor drainage–with an intention to improve natural habitat for insects, amphibians, and birds.  The restoration site is now cared for by the younger students who are able, due to the maturity of some of the species–harvest for natural dyes.

We brought the dye pot out into the garden, and put our coyote brush trimmings right into the vat.  The students asked the plant’s permission prior to taking any leaves or twigs.  We likened our harvesting regime to giving the coyote brush a ‘hair-cut’.

After dyeing our yarns in coyote brush yellow, and toyon orange, we began the process of weaving our medicine pouches.  Using a simple cardboard loom, and a unique warping style– the children wove in the round.

Up close, you can see the beautiful transition of the weaving moving from coffeeberry green, toyon orange, and coyote brush yellow.  The weaving will be turned inside out once the woven pocket is removed from the cardboard frame.  This way, all the loose ends will be on the inside of the piece.

This curriculum is well designed for the activity and energy level of this age group.  Whenever the handwork is done, students go outside to put elderberries in the ground!  Good for them…. good for the ecosystem.  I am always looking for mutually beneficial outcomes.. the mottos are ‘challenges are opportunities… find the best place for everyone’s skill… direct energy where it becomes most useful.’

It is quite beautiful to see what happens when human energy is focused on constructing healthy ecosystems, rather than destructing those systems.  Although we were designing a restoration site initially to learn about native plants and ethnobotany…we soon realized that this restoration site, was creating outcomes far beyond our initial hopes.  In the third year of planting, for the first time, a tree frog was found within the restoration garden.  While there used to be many of these frogs in the area, most had disappeared.  This frog was found right in the middle of a soap root and coffeeberry planting!  It seems that this little restored zone has now become useful habitat.

We are in the process now of trying to understand how we did what we did– and attempt to keep doing it!  We are adding more components to our curriculum as of this year.. and will continue to expand our knowledge of all the members (present and future) of this ecosystem, with the intent to continuously invite more species to our bio-diverse party.