La Belle Couleurs

September 6, 2010

Tannins, seeds of annatto, N’peku bark, and madder proved to have an almost infinite range of colors than I could have ever imagined– these totally unique processes were uncovered during my sojourn studying with a green chemist in the 10th century village just outside of Avignon, France.

I walked each morning through winding medieval lanes to the home and studio of Monsieur Garcia.  A genius botanic chemist, committed to the innovation of natural dye processes for the industrial scale.

We worked long days in his lab– exploring what seemed to be a small fraction of the possible permutations that one could create with simple combinations of plant pigment, pH, and readily available minerals.

The options created with indigo applications were jaw-dropping… for me, who has been immersing in indigo, and creating indigo washes, for some time– it was incredible to learn how to make miniature vats of reduced indigo paint within minutes– without the use of any toxic materials or synthetically created reducing agents.

This is an example of the range and variation we created with the use of tannin.  These greens, yellows, reds, and violets were brought to life with only two plant species.

We silk-screened masses of color variations on a locally produced wool fabric.

I spent many moments running up and down the 12th century staircase, moving between the application lab, and the larger machinery on the ground floor.  All the while attempting to keep from knocking myself out on the very low beams that framed the house.  I think people were much smaller back in the day this home was built… But what a gorgeous home it was!

This particular silk-screen has permanently changed my perception of what is possible with ellagic tannins… incredible.

The little village has a very small number of permanent residents– and yet, even within this tiny ancient city, there is a botanic garden– growing a collection of 300 dye species!

The plant colors, the ripening figs, the masses of sweet dangling grapes at every corner… the limestone architecture, all together has created an unforgettable sensorial combination.

10 Responses to “La Belle Couleurs”

  1. Ladka Says:

    Thank you for posting this very interesting report on what you’ve been doing. The colours – pardon, couleurs – the garden, the fig, I enjoyed all these pictures and descriptinos.

  2. Martine Says:

    Thank you so much, wished i could have been there.

  3. marchi Says:

    beautiful post!!

  4. Karen Says:

    Amazing and beautiful! Those colors are so rich and feel like ancient knowledge, which it sounds like they are. How lucky we are that it still exists to be shown to you! Can’t wait to hear more from this wonderful journey.

  5. velma Says:

    very cool. and what will you bring home, to your fibershed, to your understanding and making? i am eager to see!

    and the figs and grapes! yum!

  6. kel Says:

    how gorgeous- an what an environment! those colours you created are stunning

  7. Andrew Fynn Says:

    Lovely images and evocative descriptions. Someone said that Rebecca was living her point of genius. I agree. It is in everyone, and I find you give people permission to follow their own bliss. Because what you do is so clearly quintessentially you and no-one else on the planet could actually be doing it. You are a gift.

  8. Dorie Says:

    I have enjoyed your story in all his elements – thanks for sharing this

  9. […] We also learned about creating an “instant” indigo vat using the ground indigo. The indigo is fed by a syrup made from a fresh fruit that contains flavinoids, such as pears. Rebecca learned this method from Michel Garcia when she visited his studio in France (her post about that visit). […]

  10. Lynn Says:

    Thankyou for showing this. I want to go! How do you find out about place like this?
    Thank you

    Lynn D
    In case you want to know here is link to drawing with mushrooms!-

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