Monday 27 April 2009

maybe it's because...

it's dawned on me [yet again] that you can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the more ways than one.
even though i was born in Australia and have lived there on and off for the greater part of my life and love my home dearly
there's something about the European flora that brings a rush of memory
hardly surprising given my DNA is almost entirely European
i say almost because it's clear my brownish outer layer has been influenced by the same dash of Khazak that gave my maternal grandfather his distinctive colouring
after years of the Big Dry back home i'd completely forgotten just how wonderful the northern spring can be
and when a student gave me a bunch of lily-of-the-valley [picked from her garden] yesterday i was almost overcome and had to have a little quiet moment in a corner
burying my nose in them like a deprived addict

the colours that emerged from this spring workshop reflect the green and pleasant land...can you spot the elephant in the room
the wild colonial boy dyed in Eucalyptus cinerea

the delicious colour above came from a black tulip much like the one below

and there's someone else in that photo above who is also far from home...
Kia Ora, my friend Harakeke!

one doesn't think of London as having woods...usually Bond Street, the V & A and Paddington Station are the things that spring to mind.
staying at Golders Green has revealed the delights of Hampstead Heath - which i had always imagined as a barren treeless plain
it's more the Wild Wood of Wind in the Willows [but without the river]

somewhere on this pond there are ducks...

and this is one for Petrus.

Sunday 26 April 2009

in case you're watching, Ma

my dawn walk took me through Golders Hill Park where i found many old friends...

created by hand

i've been given a very kind write up over at 'created by hand'...well worth a visit to see all the other artists' work 

on the loose in London

it's quite surreal, being in London again after 26 years.  you can find the big picture easily enough, just google "London images"

here are some little details that may have escaped general notice...

for absolutely luscious fabrics [and a warm welcome] visit 

44Berwick Street
London W1F 8SE

it's a wee shop-on-the-corner with rack upon rack of sumptuous and seductive dress fabrics

not so far away from the ragtrader is Liberty's of London. tis a gorgeous building that is a sensory delight to explore...from the wee carved frogs on the balustrades to the [and this was a big surprise] lovely felt carpets rolled up in bundles.

wandering along a road in Golders Green i found an old friend
Berberis darwinii
a noxious weed in New Zealand, it was being cultivated in a front garden. it's a most rewarding dye plant, giving yellow from the flowers and roots and lovely purples and blues from the berries

Wednesday 22 April 2009


the water at the Gilmore Hall [rain] was pretty good stuff...gave us some very nice colour from the local eucalypts

Phyllis [i hope i've spelled your name correctly] made her very first piece of felt and explained that the image [she is Koori] shows the elder positioned around the perimeter, keeping watch over country, and the waterholes, linked by tracks

a lovely piece, made using the reverse inlay method

and a bit later, on the way to Canberra airport...the Australian National Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite places, full of visual and sensory delights

Tuesday 21 April 2009


Tumut is a pretty town...with a few quirks. that haze in the picture above is due to the chaps at the Parks service starting their annual burn-off just in time for the Festival of the Falling Leaf

must have been quite a challenge for HC Stenning to have laid this stone, especially as the rest of the building consists of timber-framed corrugated iron?

the railway station lies abandoned [and yielded a treasure trove of iron fragments]

could have happily taken the incinerator home...

a nice juxtaposition of interestingly textured walls

a deliciously leopard spotted fragment of wool sliver, dyed whilst resting in a colander inside a pot of leaves...

a national treasure

last Friday, on the way to Tumut [in New South Wales] for the felt and dye workshop, i took a small [140km] detour to Tumbarumba 
to visit the Pioneer Women's Hut

where i was given a lovely cup of tea and several caramel chocolate biscuits [by the lovely Jan who had come especially to open the Museum out of hours] and allowed to wander and take photographs to my heart's content

the collection embraces the National Quilt Register as well as extraordinarily beautiful items such as handmade wire pegs, water cans constructed from kerosene tins, buttons, household furniture
boxes of mending
drawer upon drawer of lace doilies
and jug covers

a shelf that runs around the Museum is clad in a decoratively cut newspaper border

an enormous gum leaf takes pride of place above the teacosy-clad mantel...

well worth a visit [even without caramel biscuits!]

Monday 13 April 2009

dreaming of barefoot forests

when it's dry and dusty at Easter [and should be soft, misty and damp underfoot here at this time of year] the alchemist retreats into dreams 
luckily the solidago in the ditch by the road-to-somewhere else is just as vigorous as it ever was
despite the Big Dry

and despite the generous applications of weedkiller sprayed on by council workers
so i've been harvesting in passing
and have a green cauldron brewing

meanwhile felt and stitch and lovely fragments of cloth have been coaxed together in a makebelieve mossy carpet 

Friday 10 April 2009

into the wild, again

on Friday i'll be lugging my elephant to the airport again. i call it the elephant because it's big and grey, mostly cooperative but occasionally recalcitrant. 

"it" is the wheeled behemoth that carries the accoutrements of the wandering alchemist. sometimes i dream of times past when i travelled with a small rucksack. it's not clothes taking up space, but the small cauldron, the samples and the reference books alongside the waterfilter [that saves me buying bottled water], the sturdy footwear required when dealing with pots of hot stuff and my travel blanket [a woolly comforter dyed with leaves from the farm]

this time it's Tumut, a place i haven't been to for eons...and the journey there will be slightly more adventurous than simply being transported in the flying sardine tin. i'll fly into the nation's capital and sally bravely forth in a hired chariot

being independently mobile gives me ample opportunity to gather windfalls and weeds along the way and to stop for walks into forests and contemplative moments by rivers

they tell me there are still one or two places left in this workshop. 

so if anyone out there has nothing much planned for the 18th&19th April and feels like dyeing sliver in aromatic eucalyptus baths, making a small but intricately patterned felt rug and hearing the alchemist tell stories...

please contact Cheryl [one of the kindly organisers] via


Friday 3 April 2009

April not-quite-in-Paris

it seems the London workshop planned for April 25th & 26th has filled...and although i had planned just to take a very long walk while waiting in UK for the other business on which i'm travelling to sort itself ...

there is now talk of a possible workshop in Belgium.

if there's any chance you live there [or in a neighbouring country!] and would be interested in taking part in an Eco Colour workshop on Wednesday 29th & Thursday 30th April please let me know - i'm still wrestling with the mathematics at present and it's necessary to have at least 10 people to cover costs...

mail[at]indiaflint[dot]com     will reach me

it's ridiculously short notice i know, but worth a try...

Wednesday 1 April 2009

lightfastness and other things

it's been brought to my attention that i [apparently] have paid insufficient attention to 'lightfastness' in my book. should i perhaps have done a lightfastness test for every dye plant that passed through my hands? hmm. i'd still be working on the manuscript if that were the case

let me put this into perspective

back in 2006 at the UNESCO natural dye symposium in Hyderabad a lot of industrial dyers were getting similarly hot under the collar, demanding standardisation of dyes and colours and conformity to set guidelines. there was a lot of spirited discussion.

my favourite contribution was that of Monsieur Coulibaly [forgive me if the spelling of the name has become somewhat tarnished with distance] who stood up from his seat wearing the beautiful costume of his homeland [Mali] and in perfect Parisian French succinctly addressed the assembled gathering...

[here's my translation, a little abbreviated]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
"look about you...we are all different. our skin and hair are different colours, we wear different clothes. as we age our hair turns white, our skins wrinkle and our teeth fall out. this we cannot change, but our clothes can be dyed again" 

and this is what Eco Colour is all about. dyes and dye plants differ from one region to the next. indigo grown in India yields a different blue to indigo grown in El Salvador. eucalyptus species cultivated in the UK won't necessarily give the same colour as the same species grown in Australia.
and what works well in the water available here at Hope Springs doesn't necessarily work the same way elsewhere [for example ice-flower blues were completely eaten away overnight by chemically treated water at Paraparaumu in New Zealand] . so why fuss? some colours will be substantive, others not...when things fade, re-dye them.

one genus that does however remain true to form is my friend the eucalyptus. while the shades achieved might differ depending on the quality of the water used, the colour itself when applied to wool is pretty much bombproof. at Spinexpo in China last year one of my ecoprint scarves was cheekily [and secretly, apparently] tested for washfastness - and came up with a rating of 4.
what does this mean? i'm not exactly sure, but given 5 is the top of the scale, and 4.5 is the maximum ever achieved, a 4 for eucalyptus applied to wool without adjunct mordants is pretty good.

and when one considers the wee scrap of wool that lives wrapped around my wrist has been there since December last year and has been in oceans and under showers and out in the sun with me, i don't think it's doing too badly either...