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.
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….
May 29, 2011
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…
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
January 1, 2011
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..
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…