Monday, 10 August 2009


yesterday i collected up an armful of sticks and lit the fire out in the studio for a nice boil-up. just for a change i decided to collect water from the various vessels that had been standing about in the open - and so had been kindly filled by the heavens

one of those vessels is made of copper

the dyebath comprised various prunings [lavender and roses], tempered by a pocketful of windfall eucalypts and a handful of Oxalis pes-caprae [that's soursob if you're Australian, Bermuda buttercup if you hail from across the ditch]

a pile of bundles were cooked and then allowed to cool in the brew overnight...on fishing them out this morning i discovered that the shiny new clips i'd used as resists had been beautifully coated with copper and even the black bulldog clips had acquired a very nice patina

nature's alchemy at work

i rather like my colours dark and murky, influenced by a few fragments of iron in the dyebath but had a sudden attack of hysterical giggles as i laid the samples out for a look.

i've only had two [publicly] grumpy students in the last 12 months. one walked out of a workshop in the first hour, claiming she "could have done this at home". fair enough, but if it had been me i would have stayed and gotten my money's worth...the first hour in any workshop i run is largely taken up with establishing dyepots, allocating space, saying hellos and how-do-you-dos and talking about the work ahead.

the other made the comment that her husband could have achieved the same effects using the cloth as cleaning rags in his workshop. sounds like a very talented chap, i think he could be on to something there....just imagine a huge pieced cloth, stitched together from oil-soaked rags.

i can picture it hanging in the Venice Biennale in some deliciously dilapidated old building...wouldn't mind seeing my own work there, either!


  1. have you considered using any of the oxides, copper and iron oxides especially?

  2. i lovethe idea of alchemy (well not just idea)
    all i have been playing with is the kind of bright couloured dyes from the corner store
    or kool-aid (drink crystals i would never drink)on woll
    i lkove th epot on the stove and the bubbling smells
    seeing what will come of what fabrics

    i must look into what you are doing

    and have so many questions
    like how did you get the leaves to show on the fabric?
    i have actually boiled up old damasc napkins in tea and rusty nails for the distressed textile collages i do
    i think i will go boil up something with lavender twiggs
    thanks i keep looking

  3. not yet

    traditionally metallic salts have been used as mordants in "natural" dyeing...sulphates of iron and copper especially. i avoid both of those as they're toxic and corrosive AND Ferrous sulphate [in a solution that comes into contact with skin] can contribute to a nasty form of anaemia.

    however the oxides you suggest [providing i can 'harvest' them in the wild] would certainly be interesting to try

    the mud dyers of Mali make very beautiful cloth using iron-rich muds

  4. There's mystery in dark and murky, worlds to be discovered...

  5. There's no excuse for rudeness is there? I suspect many of your other students make up for it though. That lovely greeny yellow leaf shape looks wonderful in the murky darkness.

  6. can't olease all of the people all of the time. lovely,lovely magical new works.

  7. Such artful yumminess. You must be enjoying playing again. I can't fathom those who were not transported by the class experience. It's all magic after all!

  8. Beautiful cloths. I love your work

  9. they are so beautiful, india!

    it's funny - a bit ago i found my husband cleaning crayon off the wall with sugar soap and a strip of linen i had set aside in the laundry cupboard after mordanting.

    (funny mostly because he was cleaning)

    maybe the crayon left in the cloth will act as a resist? it's in a jar with strawberry tops at the moment, nonetheless ;)

  10. Extraordinary images India.

  11. oddly enough Jeanamarie, vigorous washing is an excellent pre-mordanting process for linen - my best [linen] dye results are usually on old shirts from the op shop - and as you say, that wax will act as a resist

    could be a speccy piece indeed!
    thanks everyone for your kindly thoughts..

    and Lirio, you'll find a few answers in EcoColour, should it cross your path

  12. What a fascinating post on dyeing techniques. Makes me want to make my own experiments...

  13. funny how photos of your dyed cloth send us all aflurry. it all looks delicious as if from a time past, a place past, like Gondwanaland mayhaps? i love it when you get busy with your pots and stitching and bits. its pure magic, one never can tell whats next which is the joy of this whole process.,

  14. what are those people thinking??!! immediate gratification, infantile outbursts
    may you weather the storm and of course, you will come out smelling like the rosy copper dye pot that you are

  15. I love the way all those dark broody colurs work together, so many intricacies :)

  16. Lovely blog.
    And India is one of my favourite names.
    Best to you!

  17. It is so interesting how you experiment and try different things and then let nature make its case.

  18. India, thanks for the links...especially the one about the african artist!

    Dahlia purple kis


  19. Those two people must have been nit wits! Don't worry about them.

  20. it is a pitty that those people couldn't had the patience and took the time for all the miracles the others would have made. And although your book is so full of information, getting the news out of the first hand is the best way. Seeing your clips I get an idea of using a waffle-iron I found on the last brocantemarket in France. Thanks again for you story and inspiration, xDorie

  21. Oh silly odd bods are everywhere. Mostly just a product of closed hearts and minds, not really wanting to take anything else in. (I know everything already...itis)
    I had an angry lady at my market stall on the weekend who said "So all you do is just cut the tags off these old shirts and tie dye them and then sell them!."
    Just before she continued to lift up all the hems on my dresses and test their strength, all the while giving me daggers.
    Maybe they were having the bad day this lady was.
    Shame those students missed out on a wonderful experience of a workshop with you India.. You who are the polar opposite to a closed heart...