Farm Alley

July 21, 2012

Farm Alley in Lagunitas hosted a beautiful week of ‘from the ground-up’ textile education, with special surprise visits from some of our local Fibershed talent!  We all loved the cashmere goats, who romped around with the children all week and received so many formal names  its hard to say what the children decided on.  I think this little one ended up as ‘Carmel’.  The goats came from Mary Pettis-Sarley’s ranch for  our week of fiber education.

We also had a visit from ‘Peter’ the very relaxed and easy going angora rabbit, who was given a ride to camp by his farmer, Allison Arnold.  Peter relaxed in the shade of the oak grove and enjoyed a stream of loving caresses and hair brushing.

Allison had the children give Peter a haircut and then she showed them how to spin his fiber into yarn.

Katherine Jolda came to our textile camp too and showed the children how to ride her bicycle powered drum carder. After creating a beautiful combed batt of wool from locally raised sheep the children learned to felt the fiber into small patches.

We harvested dye plants from our meandering wall of coreopsis that runs through an acre of meadow, like a curving water-way.

The children harvested enough to dye their sample fabrics and shirts.

They made bean bags with designer Amber Steinhauer from elder, black walnut, fennel and coreopsis dyed fabrics…

We created an impromptu form of ‘cornhole’ although we didn’t exactly have it set up in the traditional sense, everyone loved keeping score and tossing their homemade bean bags.

We kept the dye vats running over several days for the children to create and explore with.  Each color was generated by the children’s own work to process the plants.

Everyone enjoyed squishing elderberries between their fingers.. hammering the fallen walnut shells, and chopping up the long fennel stalks.


Each child’s afternoon activity was steeped with free time to weave on looms, paint with beets, tumeric, and clay, climb trees, and build relationships with the animals.

Kid goats and kid humans make great companions.

Our final day was spent making paper from old jeans and T-shirts with paper maker Michelle Wilson.. (the final chapter of our textile story).  “From the ground up textiles” have many lives.  The children were excited to see an alternative to making paper from trees.

Farm Alley

August 5, 2011

Farm Alley classes brought the artisan production of food, clothing, and shelter to many children this summer.  During three, one-week sessions, we kept extremely busy with many homegrown activities, harvesting wild foods, sewing clothes, climbing in the orchard, constructing shelters, and creating our own garden variety dyes.

A well made and dyed shirt, accompanied by a lot of wool… ready for the knitting needles!

The work cart became a vehicle…. moving with slope and gravity, the activity became a favorite.

The indigo and distaff apron went home a little damp, but it was to hard to resist wearing it out the door…

During our last and final week of food focused activity, we made plum-honey-blackberry soda with wild yeast, and toured local food farms and gardens that line the country road we call…. Farm Alley.

Here is our wholewheat short-bread covered in blackberry, stevia and tumeric dyed icing– adorned with sprinkles of fennel seed, dried orange, violets, hibiscus and rose petals…

The cotton fabric we used to squeeze and strain our naturally fermented soda held a temporary and beautiful shade of orange and pink.

The plum and blackberry soda was presented at the children’s farm stand on our last day of our last week of classes–sitting atop an onion and plum leaf dyed cotton swath of cotton.

We also made fruit leather from apples, figs, and blackberries.  The children explored how to remove water from our wet mash– we tried three experiments– the sun, the oven and dehydrator.

 The sun won… the most direct, and least impacting form of energy dried our fruit leather faster than the oven or the dehydrator.

 Our rust experiments carried over through two weeks of class.  The sun cooked the iron objects in our water bath– providing a rich and smelly dye and mordant– all in one.  We overdyed the cloth in our plum and onion water creating a range of earthy tones.

The farm stand– housing all of the week’s food adventures.  Sun tea made from lemon verbena was served with sun-dried fruit leather, naturally fermented soda, blackberry preserves, naturally leavened bread, flowers from Mt. Barnaby Farm (where we visited earlier in the week), and whole wheat naturally adorned short bread.

The weeks passed by quickly and were an inspiration to us all– one of the young participants made a book inspired by her good times.

Thank you also to Kaiku, Mr. Peabody, Figellius, and Princess I-ching (the very sweet and lovely resident goats and lambs) who played with the children every day.  They seemed to have as much energy as the young humans– running jumping, chasing, snacking… they were excellent playmates for us all.

Colors of California

July 10, 2011

Toyon, Oak Galls, Japanese Indigo, Fennel, Coyote Brush, Distaff…. this just-finished set of samples was so vibrant and joy producing, I had to share…. the preparation took several days of harvest, dye vat creation and skein winding!

The Sally Fox Cotton Yarns and Mary Pettis-Sarley’s wools illuminate the regions colors and fibers.  Indigo blue is so striking this time of year…

Those blues have inspired a lot of indigo growing, my crop is doing well.  All seeded and planted by hand.  Hand weeded, hand fertilized with cow and duck rich manures, and hand-sprayed with compost tea.  This agricultural source of blue is an addition to the native palate, and so well worth all the work of my hands!

This latest sample book illuminates the beauty of a ‘weed’ like fennel (soft yellow), and how lovely it combines with the indigo– providing an array of turquoise that moves into a range of deeper blues which were created with indigo all by itself.

Enjoy!!

Off to the farm for an evening weeding session

Wheat & Walnut Groves

June 29, 2011

The summer has begun, the solstice has just now past.  The sunlight dwells until well past 8 o’clock.  My late night runs to the indigo field after long days of teaching have been well lit by setting rays of light.  This week’s classes are just down the road from the farm in a 40 year mature walnut grove.  This picture was drawn with beeswax crayons by one of our campers.  The wheat berries were found growing wild in an old pasture, we husked and peeled the plump golden seeds.

The life size jute weaving wall is being slowly constructed under the ancient walnut tree.  Willow and plum sticks make for flexible weavers.

This simply constructed loom was made with old picture frames… the children wove strips of vintage wool from mid-century patterned suit cloth.

The 100 yr. old drum carder fascinated and provided such a meditative movement to the children’s morning routine.  They carded with hand-tools and then moved to the crank machine.  “So much faster… this machine!” they all commented.

Gathered rocks are harvested for making patterns in our clothes.  These were collected at the edge of the bay during our one week museum classes.

The effects of the children’s oak and iron experiments mixed in with some adept rock tying processes created this beautiful head scarf.

The excitement of making “ghost heads” in our T-shirts became overwhelmingly odd and funny.

The adobe houses were made with free form abandon– sticks and seaweed adorned the mud structures.  Discussions of renewable resources, and ‘using what is abundant for it’s first and best use’ was the theme of our house planning process.

Every material found a use.  All found objects were woven into the architecture of the home.  The ocean plant life dried quickly leaving a firm and useful roof for this little house.

Our last and vital activity was to create clay dyed protection flags to bring awareness to the ground nesting Killdear birds.  We could not imagine how the little birds could have remained safe amid the hustle and bustle of the museum grounds– we did what we could to let the passer-bys know of their existence.

More summer images and impressions from the children’s eco-art processes to come….


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!

A Season of Botanic Color

November 2, 2010

 

photo taken by Dr. Sara Gottfried at her model platinum leed Oakland home

There’s been five fabulous workshops in the last three weeks– and I haven’t been able to document them all.  However– what pictures were taken I now have the privilege of sharing with you.  This autumn has been a complete inspiration for me as a lover of natural color.  The students created so many new samples, and finished goods to awe over…

photo taken by Dr. Sara Gottfried

Sara’s pants were soaked in iron and then dipped in fair trade logwood from the Dominican Republic.  A one-of-a-kind gorgeous creation.

A cotton sample freely printed by a student with found-object iron acetates, and an immersion dip…

photo taken by Dr. Sara Gottfried

Sara dipped her silk in native coffeeberry and logwood after she and her daughters wrapped it and secured it with little stones.

photo taken by Dr. Sara Gottfried

The preparing of the black walnut bath.  After some soaking and boiling these husks turned our fabrics into a range of deep and lighter shades of chestnut brown.

Rows of Native Color + Indigo:  Jeannie and Marie created a very organized row of samples– the bottom row was dyed in black walnut, the next row up was dyed in coffeeberry, the pinks were dyed in horsetail, the blues—in indigo, and the top row was dyed in madrone bark.  The samples were done on handwoven hemp, cotton weaves and knits, silks, – and cotton hemp blends.

A simple coreopsis flower bath turned Geraldine’s pole wrapped silk into a lovely golden sample–reminiscent of the falling leaves dusting our sidewalks.

photo taken by Dr. Sara Gottfried

Sara’s horsetail shibori shirt– this is my absolute favorite dye this season.  Normally I harvest it in the late spring.. and realized this year, that it is still producing amazing color well into the fall.  I wonder where the pink is hiding within this 380 million year old species.. it has so many stories to tell, if only its DNA could talk in a language I could understand!

Thank you Dharma Trading Company, Gottfried Center for Integrative Medicine, Harvard University, Lambtown, and the Regenerative Design Institute for sponsoring, supporting, and giving such an incredible foundation for natural color experimentation this season!

 

Dye Days at Harvard

October 25, 2010

I travelled to Cambridge Massachusetts last week to teach natural dye labs for students in the Visual and Environmental Studies program.  My days were invigorating, from the architecture of the building where we convened.. the conversations with students and professors. Inspiration permeated the hours and days.

I shared my work on the intersection of art, chemistry and ecology through a narrative based presentation, as well as a series of hands-on application processes.  Above, the work of our immersion labs.  Students worked with plant species native to the northeast, as well as California. One of the cosmos species we used, was being cultivated in the Harvard school community garden.

The garden was started this year as a part of  a University wide project led by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.  The well-tended beds were laden with food, and unbeknownst the gardeners… dye plants too!

Here lies a beaker filled with cosmos dye- an easy to make concoction, with a readily available species.  The basis for a beautiful golden orange color.

Here is a pokeberry wash we made.. used on paper and on fabric.  The berry can be found throughout the region, and is native to the Cambridge area.

We also covered the use of both common and not so common tannic compounds for use in painting and printing.  Students explored variations in color provided by pH as well as mineral mordant applications.

The beauty of abstraction.. all the tannin pieces were created on unmordanted organic cotton canvas.  Students explored the possibility of non-toxic painting .. based in the use of highly renewable resources.

The use of homemade iron and alum acetates proved to work beautifully on organic cotton muslin.  This piece was a combination of stamping, immersion, and shibori work– a very unique blend of materials and processes.

Our last immersion lab proved to be an especially creative block of time.

We made a completely non-toxic instant indigo vat, that everyone was able to use within minutes of its creation.

Some of the immersion processes…

A combination of the printmaking and immersion lab samples where laid out together in this image.  A compilation of earth pigment paints, acetate printing, and immersion vat dips.  A colorful and diverse array of applications.

Before I say goodbye..I’d just like to thank those who made these labs possible– Helen Miller, Helen Mirra, Matt Saunders, Josh Hart, and Aurora Andrews– you are amazing….

Late Summer Oak and Cosmos

October 14, 2010

The fecundity of fall–a time of vibrant color from the living and the dead.  The cosmos flowers are giving their last hooray before the close of the warm weather.  Orange petals abound– the source of a beautiful range of yellow, orange, and gold dye colors.  These flowers can be dried or put into the dye pot right off the plant.

Oak galls can be harvested in plenty this time of year from the forest floor.  They are so extremely abundant– and rich with tannins.  The compounds they contain produce a range of dark silver grays, and almost-blacks, depending on how you process them.

Pouring hot water over the flowers and letting them soak for 20 minutes is enough time to create a dye color.

This cotton sample was washed– and left unmordanted before it was painted upon.  Oak gall and iron water was brushed upon it (the black), the cosmos flower dye was brushed on top.  After rinsing, this was the outcome.

This was the oak gall and iron water that was thickened and then screenprinted on a washed and unmordanted piece of cotton.  This simple form illuminates the beautiful and strong color that emerges from the gall.

 

Dyes and Medicine

September 25, 2010

A day at the California School of Herbal Studies proved to be the highlight of my late September.  It was an incredible day spent with 16  herbalists, all learning the art of natural dyes, (most of them for the first time.)

This workshop was accompanied by a powerful presentation given by Dr. Sara Gottfried.  Together, she and I collaborated to bridge the issues of health and the reality of our clothing.  Sara’s clinic, the Gottfried Center for Integrated Medicine specializes in supporting individuals to thrive and remain healthy in the face of mounting environmental challenges.  Her molecular understanding of endocrine disruptors, and the effects of heavy metals shed a new light on the reality of our well-loved clothes, particularly, our jeans.

The beauty of this workshop was that it encompassed these honest and intense global environmental truths, while simultaneously offering viable, hands-on, local, and healthy solutions.

For the students who are entering into the holistic health care profession, the class offered a new layer of understanding in regard to the health impacts of our current industrial textile system, both for the wearer of the garment, and for the planet as a whole.

For these students dye making is not a far stretch from the techniques they were already learning in their other classes.  The connection between medicine making and dye making is inextricable… the way plants are processed for color and medicine are processes that have been honed for millenia.

We made a fresh pokeberry vat, on site, during the workshop.  We harvested, and processed the berries for color and then dyed all manner of fiber samples.

Poke root is a lymphatic cleanser… the fresh spring greens were canned for food sources (they must be well cooked so as not to be toxic)…  and the color from the berries is almost too good to be true..

The Pokeberry took to the wool skeins the best…

Here is a beautiful silk sample done with coreopsis flower dye– (we made this dye during the workshop).

Another example of pokeberry and coreopsis, on wool– gorgeous!

This wool skein was dyed in coffeeberry and coreopsis.. half of the skein dyed at a time.

This rainbow effect was created with a light wash of pokeberry, sage, indigo, and coreopsis… some resist techniques were used.

Handwoven hemp samples–done in sage and madrone bark..

And here it is.. the most exciting new fall color– Madrone!!  The bark falls to the ground this time of year, and produces the most beautiful chestnut brown.

The students explored the expansive medicinal and food garden for their plant pounding processes, all these materials were sourced in the moment, in midst of our workshop.

I think this cotton shopping bag of Sara Gottfried’s sums up this workshop best. The beauty of these colors.. the smells of wafting dyes, the innovative atmosphere, the offerings of the plants.  Together these elements produced an experience like no other.  It is the reason that I keep hauling dye vats long distances to these far destinations– the reason I spend so many hours preparing materials.  It is a labor of love, a labor that gives as much as it takes.  For me it is a way of life.

Thank you Roots students!

May the colors of the plants and the medicine they offer be with you always.  The world needs what you are offering.