madder returns, and baby blue hopes

So………………..this is the culmination of 3 and a half years of growing madder. There were 4 winters in that time span, and the first three i had the good fortune of a large garden, where the huge pot could be heeled in (buried and well covered in other words) for our harsh winters. Not so with the recent move and downsizing though: i kept the pot against our sunny house wall by the heat escape vents, wrapped and covered it well, but no growth at all when spring started. Time to “harvest” roots, regardless, as madder is good to dig up in at least it’s third year (5 is optimum apparently).

I dumped the pot, and pawed through it, working as fast as possible because there was a new ant home in the bottom (i HATE ants: they creep me out, have done since i saw Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou” when i was 16…..) and was very disappointed. Not only did the roots never get below the depth of half the pot, but they were SMALL, stringy and unfortunately, had started to rot. POOP.

I ended up with 65 grams of “fresh” root, which as i understand means they would dry down to about one sixth of that, not quite 11 GRAMS…… I can see a red tint to them, but am not hopeful for good depth. I will use as soon as i can because they don’t *have* to be dry to use, though it’s suggested that letting them “age” develops more of the alazarin. (Although as i hit “publish” on this post, i note they have been drying now for 32 days, admittedly a far cry from drying for a year 🙂 ) I won’t be trying to grow it again as our new garden space is too tiny to heel anything in, and seriously, the “return” on all the effort was not worth the effort… If i ever win the lottery, and have my big space in the country and a proper greenhouse, well, then we’ll revisit that.

Most of the Indigo suffruticosa seeds i planted did pop up. I lost a couple to drying out, because of the winds we’ve had lately, and due to the fact that Calgary is very dry at the best of times. I’m not assuming these will get as big as they grow in Texas at Deb’s though (SHE”S HARVESTING ALREADY!), because we have a shorter growing season, much cooler nights (due to our altitude) and so far this season not a lot of heat….. They did manage to get through 3 hail storms unscathed, probably because they are so tiny! I’m going to cloche them for awhile, trying to keep some heat in, and hopefully they will get big enough that i can get something. I still have a very tiny harvest from my first indigo Persicaria tinctoria attempts at the old house–a handful stored dry since 2015! (Edit: Even cloching these babies didn’t do much though they did double in size in a week. Still pretty teeny! And i don’t know if a bug/virus got them, or it’s the cold weather, but they are all spotted.)

I’ve decided in future, i won’t be sharing much about the actual process of natural dyeing, just the results. I get a fair number of hits on my “how to/how i did it” posts, but since 99.9% of readers don’t acknowledge even with a simple “thank you”, it seems rather pointless. (I’m sure it also bores the hell out of my readers that don’t care about that part of the process.) I seriously think schools have done a poor job teaching anyone HOW to research correctly, but i ain’t getting into that. All i can say is “just because it’s on the internet, or “popular”, doesn’t make it true”.

making it smell like Summer

I can’t pretend Spring is coming with the coming weekend supposed to be in the minus20’s(C), but i can smell Summer right now: I had a pot of rhubarb root simmering, an excellent dye the last time i used some. The fragrance lingers, even to the next day, and always reminds me of alder burning in the old wood stove on Bowen Island. This is a test of sorts too, as the first time was freshly dug and cut up, and this particular bag has been in my cache since October of 2015, so very dry. Some dyes just don’t do well dried! Checking the pot after an hour assured me though: there was LOTS of colour seeping out.

Silly me though! I forgot to weigh the bag and have no idea how much i used. I decided to start a separate note book for my silk work, as it’s a different kettle of canned worms than other fabrics, and the colours are amazing! And guess who didn’t take notes last year when she was doing all this? I mean, i know if i used quebracho rojo, or madder, or osage obviously, but what post mords or post mods did i use? What mixes of dyes did i use to get other colours? How many times did i use that bath? I didn’t even keep swatches!

Rhubarb root has more of an affinity for protein fibres though: all the trials i’ve done on cotton or linen gave at best, a pleasant warm toned pale yellow, and even post modifying doesn’t change much of that. (Except for iron which which pretty much *always” turn any natural dye to shades of charcoal!)

Here’s my array of tests, in order of post-modifier: copper, iron, soda ash and vinegar. (Unfortunately, i threw out the ammonia for some reason, so couldn’t try that…) Again, little change on the linen.

For some reason, there also seems to be little difference in the colour when overdyed with indigo, but my vat may be too strong still. This is the one time i wish for a weaker one! (In *my* experience, a weaker vat gives a better chance for the first colour to influence the outcome.)

So, did i lose you with that highly detailed ireallydon’tgiveashitphotoijustlikecoloursandb? 🙂 (I myself quite like the orangey soda ash results, and the iron.) This is how we roll, us natural dyers!!!! BUT, once we know the general outcome of all those steps, we can play confidently and happily, mixing, mixing more, and mixing again. It’s not just a matter of throwing an avocado in a pot with some pretty muslin 🙂 And more tests will now be done, in overdyeing with *other* dyes: quebracho rojo, cutch, madder, cochineal, etc etc etc.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of misconceptions about dyes……..this article was brought to the attention of several natural dye groups yesterday. Quite an uproar ensued, because while yes we should be more aware of our purchases and the effects mass consumerism has on the world, we should also not have to, as natural dyers, be misrepresented by an uninformed “trend forecaster” belittling us with comments about natural dyes being “Subdued and melancholic…….”, even if she *is* trying to be “on trend”. Except for aforementioned avocados maybe, HA.

The ennui that rises from this article is a palpable stench. I would guess that’s the subdued and melancholic way of saying “i just don’t give a damn”. But then she of course redeems herself with pithiness because “She is given to issuing prophecies such as: “I think we will get very inspired by blouses.” *My* blouses are pretty vivid and lively 🤣(This is as bad an article as one i read by Germaine Greer, who hadn’t a CLUE about textiles, and textile art. I wrote about that on my old blog, here, and here. If you’re going to set yourself as an expert, do some research, for jeebly sakes.)

why don’t we write long blog posts anymore?

I started blogging in 2003, intensely personal and set to completely private. I thought that was what blogging was for: an online journal, diary, lists of daily experiences, woe-is-me’s, and small joys. I don’t remember being able to add photos or links, it was literally just an online personal notebook. In 2004 i discovered there were PUBLIC blogs–and WHOA, there were artists, there were TEXTILE artists out there who like me, wanted to record their journeys, their tests, their revelations, how to’s and failures, and their art, for everyone to see.

I would spend hours every day clicking on links–in those days we shared that, shared the work of people we admired, with no thought of jealousy or snark, long lists of blogs we each visited, links to strange things we liked. One of my favourites was “Corpses for Sale“, an artist who yes, made life like (death like??) corpses from latex and hardware supplies. (That was part of my body fascination in art phase 🙂 ) The  site is pretty slick now and i guess disturbed people enough that a warning was posted on it: “WARNING: Displaying a corpse in public may break some County laws.”  HA.

I digress………

We posted samples of how we worked, we wrote actual tutorials, we traded art, we wrote long posts and added lots of pictures, bared our guts, and laughed at ourselves a lot. I remember being excited so often by what i saw, what people made, how they discovered things, how their artistic exploits evolved and expanded. We formed groups by dint of actual MAIL, real letters and packages, we created round robins and exchanges, we made art collaboratively and entered shows specifically for that, we solved problems for each other, we communicated almost every time we “visited”. Our best “communal platform” was Flickr, a Flickr that was a lot more user friendly in those days. We were interactive, wrote long “in response” posts of our own, did even more sharing of links and how to’s, and left thoughtful comments that were more than a “like” (or a troll response!).

So what happened? With few exceptions, most of us don’t do, act, think, or respond any more, do not inhabit our blogs the way we used to. (Guilty.) They’re drop shipping ports now: “Go to my Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, flavouroftheday platform”. (Guilty.) Or they are “monetized” now, supported by suppliers, links to quote affiliates unquote and advertising for spuriously related products. (By the way, any ads you see at the bottom of MY posts are completely out of my control, as i use WordPress’ free platform. They get put there automatically and i don’t even know what they are!)  Islands in the vast galactic sized ocean the net has become, with no other land in sight it feels. Some of us disappeared by choice, or sadly, died, some just faded away with no reaction or reason from themselves or their followers, some did abrupt turns and we left them behind because they no longer interested us. (Guilty.) Attention spans shortened drastically, “yeah but’s” appeared, “one up man ship” started distorting responses. (Guilty.)

So. Almost 17 years later (cause that calendar page is gonna flip again in 20 days and everything will be MAGIC again…), i want to go back to 2004 in a sense, and BE here. I may miss things, may not appeal, may flounder, flop and fail, but i’m going to try. Are you?

 

 

 

“True Colors” book review (or how to make yourself even *more* unpopular)

Firstly, i’m ambivalent, PERIOD, about posting this review. I realize it may have been a deeply personal choice of the editor/writer to make these particular inclusions in the book. I’m also rather curious how some have been given the title of “World Master” as well. But honestly? I wouldn’t recommend buying unless you’re one of those people who has to have *EVERY* book on a subject: borrow from the library when it gets there.  (Petition your library: they are always open to reasonable requests for aquisitions, and it’s still a sale for the writer/publisher.) It’s not that it’s expensive (it isn’t by a long shot) but you’d be better off with other more historically “slanted” books, like Dominique Cardon’s epistle, any of Yoshiko Wada’s beautiful offerings, Jenny Balfour-Paul’s indigo histories, and many museum guides online and sometimes available as catalogues.

So.

 

 

This is the first natural dye book i’ve ever been ambivalent about. On one hand, it’s exciting visually, a cornucopia of natural colour use around the world, illustrated gorgeously with close-ups and atmospheric scenes. Spotlights are on cultural meaning and history, empowerment of indigenous people, and the uses of ethno/geo-centric dye materials, in traditional and in cutting edge directions. The many facets of indigo are intriguing, and in some cases jaw dropping in the dedication to preservation of a skill, and in the use of aeons old techniques and materials for contemporary art applications in other media. The indigo sections in particular opened my heart to appreciate *all* the permutations of blue possible and to embrace the vagaries of the vat, finding beauty in the palest to darkest, no “wrong” blue as a result. The book should have been edited then and there, to be finished.

The reverse side of the coin however is the inclusion of erroneously labelled “sustainable” branded “dyers” who promote the use of food waste, fugitive dyes and the instant gratification element of DIY, with no actual historical data. This isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, but i would have expected a disclaimer by some, (even one!) of these currently Popular Girls, about dyes that last, are done correctly with proper mordanting, with light and wash fast tests, instead of “seasonal colour” that essentially wastes more resources by the very fact that they have to be redyed over and over to have colour. I feel that these chapters are puff pieces only, designed to fill the book, with no actual value added, but since there are only a couple of these artistes included, there is a small blessing in that.

As i said, this isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, and was never intended to be, but in giving the title “World Masters” to some of the included artists, it cheapens the whole field, promotes bad practice, and encourages questionable business models. It’s unfortunate that the classic dyers, innovative artists and contemporary uses will be glossed over by many in favour of the easy to do fugitive. A coffee table book, and it may pique some interest in those who intend to get serious, but in the end, not a reference book, not destined to become a classic, and not very useful for the most part, except perhaps as a “Digest”.

 

Unfortunately, or funnily, or strangely even, i cannot post this review on Amazon, because the book hasn’t been “released” yet. Really? I got my copy 2 days ago!

You’ll note too that i actually was rather mild in my condemnation for fugitive dyes, and mentioned no names 🙂 These ARE *MY* personal opinions, and whilst many think i’m a Know It All, i have never steered anyone wrong, deliberately or otherwise, with information i have shared. “The facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”

 

coming to terms with the artisan self

I’ve come to the logical conclusion this past week, that i am an artisan type artist now. I say “now” because it’s taken me this long to recognize that all the damn drama i put in and the fighting i’ve done with myself on so many occasions, has been a millstone around my neck. I’m not about to give up the “serious” work, but i know now i will never be considered on a larger scale as “a prophet in my own land”, or anywhere else for that matter. “My land” is still within the scope of textiles, but i won’t ever be a Judy Martin, Penny Berens, or any of a multitude of other Canadian artists who get the gallery shows, the invitations, the international acclaim. I had my spate of “popularity”, exposure, recognition a few years back, in international magazines and on several well-respected online sites, but the days are done.

Please know this is NOT sour grapes.I don’t envy, am not jealous of these artists: i respect and admire them. They have integrity, skill, talent, vision, fortitude and knowledge. In fact, i am in awe of them, love them.

I enjoyed/enjoy (even with the usual accompanying angst that each piece extracts from me 🙂 ), the making of the more reflective pieces, am very proud of them, stand 100% behind them, but in the long run, these do not support me, do not go anywhere, with a very few exceptions, but a wall in my own home. I’ll still create them (Samara, i hear you calling again), but truthfully, it’s the more “crafted” pieces that are going out to the world.

That actually makes me happier. Yes, there’s coin, and who doesn’t like that aspect, but knowing that someone appreciates enough what i have made, to put up their own hard-earned cash, to enjoy the package they open, to take pride of ownership in the purchase, is, THAT is the true validation of what i’m doing. Paying entry fees, shipping costs, filling out paperwork, and rarely if ever being able to attend a show that accepted the work, not so much! Only one of these shows have ever put money in my pocket (and i thank that organizer/buyer/artist from the bottom of my wizened little heart, you know who you are, Darlin’). We all know that “exposure” thing really doesn’t mean much for too many artists…..

Artists can die of exposure……………………

I don’t suffer when i am making the smaller pieces, the stuff that goes in the shop. I don’t have to, shouldn’t have to act like the proverbial starving artist living in a garret. I won’t be shamed or ashamed for not making big political/subversive/feminist trope/anything trope/mindful/revolutionary/label label label Art anymore. I LIKE WHAT I’M DOING NOW. It gets me out of bed in the morning, it helps me sleep at night, it keeps the Black Dog from howling (though he may still growl in unguarded moments). I won’t be an apologist anymore for my Self. BUT, the next person whether in cybrespace or in real who gets all dismissive and condescending to me, gets a mighty slap on the self righteous ass. Make your own damn sandwich then 🙂

So. To that end, i have new plans, though i am smart enough to know that not all always goes according to plan. I need to actually go to the local galleries, participate in the local shows (yeah, still gotta do some, whether artisan market or solo), talk myself up locally. Online has been a great experience, and i will continue there, but i need a more reachable plateau. After all, this is real life.

My tasks this week then are to find those galleries, put some “propaganda” together, figure out tags, prices, presentation and then apply, submit, show.

Oh yeah, and do the artisan thing and make!

 

 

my drawers will never be empty (book review):The Art and Science of Natural Dyes

JUST when i had got all my dye stuff and tools and pots back down to the Dye Dungeon, this arrived in the mail 🙂 I pre-ordered this last July, the moment i heard it was finished, and have been anxiously waiting for it. I pretty much snatched it out of the postman’s hands!

The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments and Results  – Catherine Ellis and Joy Boutrup

I’ve already had 3 “AHA” moments, and i’m only half way through. It’s not a book you read once and then sporadically refer to, so fortunately, it’s also spiral bound so it stays open to the page you want. (Terrific, now i have to dig my book/magazine holder back out of the “donate” box….)

It’s not so sciencey that it can’t be understood, but it’s also not a skim it and do it manual. It covers the “classic” dyes, none of the usual beets, beans and berries nonsense, so don’t bother if you’re interested only in sauteing up some food waste, throwing in a cute baby onesie and staging artful photos for IG. If you’re serious about natural dyeing, and i don’t mean Total Scientist Mode but are a dedicated hobbyist/artist/small business owner, this is the book to explain WHY things work/don’t/happen. I still recommend Jenny Dean for basic, accurate dye recipes and processes, but this one will give you insights into the many variations that can and are encouraged to happen with skillful, knowledgeable hands.

There’s a small section on testing the dye potential of local foraged plants, minimal though helpful, but not the focus of the book. That being said, those tests could lead to work with those plants, following the advice for the classics. It’s all grist for the colour mill!

I’m not about to dissect any “recipe” in this reference manual: A.  buy the book, i don’t like spreading out the photos of pages i find interesting, as i’d rather you support the authors, and their research and B. the recipes are classic anyways, BUT with much new information that can be digested fully with the book in front of you 🙂

There’s a LOT of excitement about this book in the natural dye groups, and rightly so: it also supports all the things i, and others, have said about what constitutes solid, legitimate dyes and the techniques used to create these wondrous rainbows. I have to laugh though in one sense, because i just know that the new catchphrase is going to be “Welllll, Boutrup Ellis says……..” This book should be MANDATORY reading for anyone who goes near a natural dye pot.

It’s not a cheap book, but then it’s not a cheap book, like so many of the Popular girls are publishing right now. I’m about to settle in with another cup of coffee and a pack of stickit thingies to mark pages, and do a little dreaming and planning.

Edit: After 1000’s of hits to this blog post, it occurred to me that there really should be a link here to the book! Beware though–already some are claiming it in their “used but good condition” racks at two and three times the price!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EDIT: Feb 9/18WHOA! “#1 best seller” in dyes at Amazon, sold out of a lot of places, and the bloodsuckers have moved in with their jacked up prices because they bought several copies deliberately to re-sell. Good for the authors, not so much for the buyers!

I’m going to burn in hell

If you don’t give a flying youknowwhat about natural dyeing, move on, friend.

Beets, beans, olives, mint, spinach, blackberries,  carrots, cherries, raspberries, red cabbage,. Yum, but not dyes. Really. They are not dyes. Even so called “reputable”, “popular” authors are buggering about now with these. PLEASE please please PLEASE, if you must include these in your book, make sure it is OBVIOUS that these are fugitive/bad/stains only/pointless for using on fabric. Maybe write a book on how to dye Easter eggs instead. Or salt and flour playdough for kids.

However.

I’m not aware of any field of craft anywhere else as “natural dyeing” that advocates the use of bad practice as “play”. Since so many espouse “ecological awareness and sustainability”, how does that balance with the waste of time, resources (water and electricity), materials (cloth and thread) and plant materials? Granted some of these plant materials *are* “waste”, but they’d be better in your compost then, so that you could then grow healthy plants that *do* actually dye. The approach too that “if it fades, it can still be pretty, or dyed again” does no service to the natural dyers who pride themselves on products done well to begin with, that do not need overdyeing after a month, and who have customers who spending their money, expect a little more than “well, i can re-do it when that purple turns to washed out beige”.  (Assuming the customer is able to get the product back to them, WANTS to get it back to them, and then can pick it up again….AND are you going to charge them for the re-dye???? Really?) And is that customer going to trust that the product WILL last this time? Even if you are not selling the item, how many times has the family member/friend worn that spinach dyed toque? Or have they “donated” it to the local charity, or tossed it in a garbage bag going to the landfill, saying “oh so sorry, i lost it”? MORE waste.

When learning to play with different mordants and modifiers, why not use an accredited dye that will actually teach you something about natural dyeing? Just because mint/blackberries/beets react with these chemicals, doesn’t mean a real dye is going to act the same way. Just because a plant is “readily available” does not make it a dye plant. Where is the historically relevant data, where are the extant samples, the light and colour fastness tests results? Artfully staged photos are not “proof”.

Because you can bet if i styled a cantaloupe with some coral silk, or an eggplant with artistically draped purple wool gauze, someone would automatically wax rhapsodic about the beauty and depth of colour, and accept it at face value… I’ve seen it too many times on FB, Instagram and on blogs. Liars.

The claim that natural dyes are “expensive” is specious as well. At the very least, many reputable dye houses sell mixed packs that can give even a novice good results. There’s a system of Cost per Wear, that says if i buy a dress for 200 and wear it once, it cost me 200 that is now gone: if i wear that dress 20 times, it cost me 10 per wear, and i didn’t have to buy a dress to replace it. If i use water, electricity, cloth and beets (for $10 for enough to “dye” with), and the colour washes/fades out, i now add the cost of the water, the electricity, the cloth, the time and the damn beets and it probably comes out to more than 10, that is now GONE. AND i have to redye it or the cloth itself is now wasted. This is “sustainable? This is ecologically responsible?

Is this the “if it’s on the internet, it must be true” mentality? Books can be as bad for information, given the spate of vanity/self publishing now, or from publishers/editors who really don’t know the field, and who don’t care as long as the book sells. Even authors with years of experience and actual research will advise that something didn’t work after all, that the information was erroneous to begin with. (Jenny Dean admits hollyhocks do NOT work as a supportable dye.) And if you’re going to teach, or are avid about less waste, and more responsibility in the textile field, why not promote something that does last, that is proven to be viable. The number of books a person publishes, or what position she/he holds has nothing to do with veracity. (Look at Dr Oz……….) Obviously too, “facts” can be tailored for books, not presenting the whole picture.

We have this little Cult of Personality too, where no one is willing to speak up, to give honest opinions, to present true facts. This means the book/blog/website/class/workshop is free to promulgate more disinformation/folklore/slanted views, and now it’s the Bible, and if you disagree, you are a heretic.

Burn baby, burn. Guess that’s me.

And there’s a new post too about this 🙂

“Love is the Answer” project, part 1

March 5/18: (I decided not to publish any of these until i had a certain amount of work done on my part of the project , hence the date at the beginning of the post. You might have seen some of the drawings/work though in previous to this project posts 🙂 )

I’ve been a long time follower/reader of Mo Orkizewski (Mo Crow) at her It’s Crow Time blog in Australia. I admire her spirit, her ethics, her art and her outlook on life. In June of 2017, she conceived a project, based on a line from her equally talented partner’s song “I Dream of a World”, that has become a hugely collaborative art installation, slated for display in 2019 at Artsite as part of a show entitled “Braille for the Soul”.

Now, long time readers will know that i “hold no truck” with arty proposed “solutions” to world evils, from folding paper cranes for Paris’s Charlie Hebdo tragedy, to prayer flags for whatever cause, or “craft for peace” days. It’s not that i think groundswell movements can’t change things (because alas, our sad world has so many problems), but that people use these as excuses to pay a moment of goodytwoshoes my piece about peace is more important than your considered opinion and actions about HOW to/that do actually make things better for SOMEONE.

*My* answer usually is go small, be small. Contra-indicative? Nope. Because i/you will never stop any of the depredations that man commits upon man, that man commits on the world, on Mother Nature, on women, on children (and by “man” that’s the generic human species, not specifically the male sex–though given the current climate in the US happening right now with the confirmation hearings, that’s a debate well in fury right now…..), by practicing origami, hanging rags on ropes in a breeze, or blessing fabric in the sea. Going and being small does not mean either that one is selfish–i mean go small, be small, as in sharing what you have with someone who truly needs, in your own part of the world. It is a small thing on a global or universal scale, but it helps someone/something immediately. Prayers don’t fill bellies, warm hands in -40 temps, or show any true kindness.  Be small when you volunteer, donate give ( i don’t like the word donate with all its connotations of old clothes that don’t fit, or that you had enough money to mis-spend and really don’t care, or a 20 dollar bill once a year in the Salvation Army kettles because you feel guilty and seasonally magnanimous at the same time…), help, compliment, show respect, share gloves and scarves, a sandwich and coffee, a five dollar bill to someone scraping for busfare or cans in the trash, hold a door, pick up someone who has fallen on the ice, because small is big for some. If you can make ONE day better for ONE person, doesn’t that say more for your humanity and soul AND theirs, than all the frickin’ paper cranes in the world???????? And maybe THAT person is the one who DOES change the WHOLE world.

Off the soapbox. So WHY then would i contribute gladly to a project like this? Because to me, this one does say something–it’s the joining of a lot of viewpoints from around the world, expressed eloquently, calmly, lovingly and full of hope and concern, with intent, expression and heart that goes beyond slapping some felt letters on a scrap or finding the prettiest paper at great expense to torture into a symbolic shape.

So within the context of the show, what does “Love is the answer” mean? Love, true love***, whether platonic, romantic, pantheistic, or spiritual is, on a broader truer scale, about respect. It does not use apologies as manipulation, is inclusive, does not contrive, never obligates, does not keep a ledger. Love guides and supports, connects and strengthens, complements, enhances and shares. Love is moral, thoughtful, questioning but not aggressive, does not judge, is constant and patient. Love is not guile or a weapon. I re-iterate: Love is Respect.

So, anyways, off the box again 🙂 Mo sent me one of the “pennants” to do with as i wish. (The fabric is from a very old wedding dress.) I took it apart first, as the layers can be re-assembled when the work is done.

I did an alum pre-mordant, assuming the cloth was silk, but there was no madder dye uptake, then realized it was a synthetic after a burn test spattered some on one of my fingers! Then i spent two weeks dithering about what i was going to do next, staring at it, shuffling bits on and off it, having multiple “Eureka” moments that withered very very very fast, and thinking i was going to completely ruin it —–and Mo was going to politely say “oh that’s interesting” while privately wondering why the hell she had sent the original to me at all…….

This will be a layered process, something i have done before, but not a lot lately. Building dimension and story this way means the elements won’t be fighting each other. This is the “first” layer, though in the end, it’ll be the background, and not all visible. I deliberately stitched some areas so that they looked as if they were fading, rubbed out. (Unfinished at time of photography.) Not only is negative space important, but it will be more effective once the next layers go on.

Greyman thought i was embroidering him a wide tie 🙂 , but *his* choice of words would have been quite different!

July: A mock up for part of the front, still being worked:

August: and good progress on the back, as of the middle of August:

Stay tuned for “part 2” and maybe one more: one post would be waaaaaay too long!!! And of course, an “Artist Statement” 🙂

“Love, true love”*** does momentarily give me a giggle as i remember a particular scene from “The Princess Bride”…..

 

reality check

Okay, time to be blunt. FB is doing me no good as a business. No one sees the posts. If you pay for an ad, no one sees the post. If no one sees a post, no one goes to the shop, and no one buys. No support=no business. No business=no products being made. No-one goes to the shop from here either, honestly, though for one last time, i am adding the link here–>shop

 

All products that are in the shop will remain until sold, but no new ones will be added either. The shop will remain as it is, until a. everything/most is sold or b. i fucking give up. If you see it, want it, please buy it. As a small business owner, i cannot afford to keep paying for a shop or a passion, that does not pay for itself. This is not a whine, or a rant, this is a reality check. I could probably make more money standing on a damned corner, as raddled and old as this body and personality is. If no one supports small businesses, artists, entrepreneurs, why should we keep on going? I’m not going to discount anything except to the faithful few (you know who you are and already have that discount) because the prices are more than reasonable for the amount of work and effort i have put into them. And as always i refund any extra postage paid.

I see people going all ga-ga over mindfulness, slowness, natural and eco, but few who actually put their money on those products. I see badly dyed or overpriced products fly out of some shops. Should i raise my prices? Should i slap things on cloth and call it wabi-sabi? I pride myself on well done, properly done, reasonably priced.

You think i’m whining? Nope. Honestly, i am DISGUSTED. I’m not even going to bother with the “Buy my art before i’m dead” route, because too many think that’s funny. I have never cheaped out on the quality of my work. I’ve put every lesson learned, into producing cloth that should be valued. I don’t whack things out in multiples using the crummiest method that will impart a modicum of colour.

I’m not just disgusted either, i’m fucking furious. At myself. Wasted time, wasted effort, wasted resources, wasted money. Screw it, head is now out of ass.

To the customers who have supported me over the years, i do thank you for the support and faith you have put in me. You are truly a lovely bunch of people.

If you disagree, well, ’nuff said. Over it and out of it.

Book review: Dyes from Native American Plants

(I reviewed this on my old blog, but thought it worth repeating here, with a few edits.)

You know what the best thing about this book is? It gives a detailed list of plant materials that give little or no colour!!! That means less wasted time, fabric, heat and gathering 🙂 Though it’s a bit more geocentric than i thought it would be, given the slightly misleading title (covering mostly what grows in south-central US), a lot of the wild plants mentioned are widespread in North America, even up to Alberta. It does miss out on a few plants in the same species, but given again that it is geo-specific, that may be why–one variety in the species grows there, but not others. It’s also decidedly not a “kitchen scrap” book with claims of blue from elecampene, magenta from dandilion roots, green from spinach and lasting effects from turmeric!!!

No vinegar or salt “fixes” either–really, just go, run down to the corner convenience store, buy a bag of potato chips fer jeebly sakes, if you’ve got a hankering for salt and vinegar, and stop mushing on about how they make berries last longer and stops rust from rusting…….

The only true problem with this book, is that it doesn’t give any indication of what is light or wash fast. It does tell you *how* to do that, but there are no notes with plants what is worth the effort, and what is a waste of time, effort and resources. I truly believe too, that testing for these should be an INTEGRAL part of the dyeing process. Maybe then we’d see less of the Beet and Berry Brigade posting their results for the GaGa newbies…………… There’s also no mention of post modifying, an important and often surprising process that brings unexpected colour out.

So what else is in it?

It’s laid out with plant materials grouped by colour results, it has a comprehensive index with the Latin and common name (though the common nomenclature may be regional), there are photos of the plants mentioned. I would also recommend investing in a good geo-centric plant guide, like those published by Lone Pine Publishing, so that you know what you are looking at, and hoping to gather. The author speaks of responsible gathering and safe dye practices and it’s not dumbed down or too technical. My only complaint is the prevalent use of tin as mordant in a lot of the dye baths. Even in 2005 (the date this book was published), we knew this type of mordant was dangerous for the dyer, and best not used in the home. There are no “recipes” per se, for the novice, but the more experienced dyer will already know that as with most plant materials, your plant chunks ratio should be at least of the same weight as your fabrics/threads.

There were a few surprises with some of the flora mentioned. Certain plants abound here, and while i’m not going to get too excited about the possibility of using them, it does give me new hope for local colour. Many of them are also though, while “plentiful”, are in our National Parks–and i am never going to scavenge great quantities, because of that, and because they belong where they belong, period. If i find them in a ditch however and if it’s in my immediate environs, and i know it’s considered invasive or noxious, it’s fair game. I recognized a few varieties i had no idea would give any colour at all, but because of my frequent walks with the DogFaced Girl, i know that locally these are very very small ecosystems, and i would feel incredibly guilty if i denuded the area. I am passionately interested in using what i can find, but not at the expense of the primary reason why i do these walks and that is to appreciate what is there, not what can be taken away! You’ll note i did not mention any of these by name—–i don’t want to be blamed by the Cosmos for encouraging somebody sneaky to go and strip their area!

Of course, the preponderance of colour mentioned is yellows and browns, as few native North American plants have the tinctoria classification 🙂