Sunday 24 May 2009


on the way home from Warrnambool i spent time with someone whose work i respect and whose opinions and thoughts i value very highly. during conversation he introduced me to TED, a fascinating site that offers talks [by people with passion] about an diverse range of subject matter 

he also kindly took the photo above for me as i wasn't carrying a camera...

i wandered thither during a quiet moment yesterday and was delighted to find a talk by Carl Honore, advocate of slowness. his philosophy of undertaking tasks or activities individually rather than multi-tasking and of being fully engaged with the matter at hand sings most harmoniously with the mantra "time is your friend"... something i've been telling my students for a long time

the dyebath above ... a slow cauldron of choisya ternata in a copper pot, contained within a larger stainless steel pot [to save the copper pot from the flames] only revealed full potential after many hours of gentle steeping

but well worth the effort, the lovely fresh green it produced being notoriously tricky to achieve according to traditional plant dye texts

during that same week a slow windfall walk revealed other treasures too, colours that cannot be achieved through traditional dye extraction but are visible [ie unaffected by the water of the dyebath] when processed in contact

the print above was from a fungus growing in the lawn...

speaking of slowness and of taking time... news has reached me that a recent student is already formulating plans for a plant dye course she will teach at her college. a most laudable notion, certainly, but not something i would have felt comfortable proposing after a relatively short exposure to the field. perhaps, though, she has a long dye history that i'm completely unaware of, but given the bombardment of questions that were coming my way from that quarter for a month or so i suspect that may not be the case

the book Eco Colour was only published after many years research into dyeing with plants and now [some two years since handing the manuscript to my publisher] i feel i have as much still to learn. i'm deeply grateful to my many students for their brave experiments in classes over the years - fifteen people bringing their own hand to the same pool of materials discover so much more than one person working alone in a studio

and maybe there's the lesson in this, that by teaching a skill one actually learns more about it...

so i wish her luck and look forward to the development of new and exciting ecologically sustainable dye techniques emerging from the west country of that Green and Pleasant land

and remember, go slow... 

Sunday 17 May 2009

a pool in a forest

i wandered eastward last week 
refreshed a few incantations by dipping them in the sea
stood in reviving rain
found treasure by [yet another] railway track
gloried in green
on land as well as cloth

rediscovered friends
in various places
and then while taking a quiet moment in a forest
before beginning the road home
gazed down at The Beastie  
to find it transformed

Saturday 9 May 2009

casting bouquets of nasturtiums?

a participant in a recent workshop has suggested via email that there may have been a hidden ingredient in the dyepots used by the class, as said participant has apparently had difficulty in replicating class samples at home

it was even implied that the eucalyptus leaves i had brought from home had caused the results to be brighter and richer than might otherwise have been possible

said participant had made samples from leaves she had brought to the class herself. the samples were really very beautiful.  

the really funny thing in all this is that because the leaves i had brought with me were quite dry, ecoprints from them were mere shadows of what they might have been [although when brewed in the usual way they produced the anticipated rich orange-red] and were far eclipsed by the ecoprints produced by our friend.

i have only once before carried dye materials from home and that was specifically in order to demonstrate the difference that the water used as a substrate makes when extracting dyes from eucalypts. the sample from home was a deep rust red, the sample produced at Hyderabad for the UNESCO conference was a mustard yellow. same leaves [picked on same day from same tree], same merino jersey, stainless steel [non-reactive] vessel, but different water.

so, what have i learned from this exchange? i've learned to practice what i preach..use only local  materials and DON'T bring dye materials from elsewhere, it only leads to confusion. i'll stick to what i have done 99% of the time and just work with what i find available near the workshop location

there really ain't no mysteries to what i do, folks, just the simple magic of leaves, cloth and water

oh, and a few muttered incantations learned from an ancient crone in the shadow of a crystal boulder by an enchanted lake in a mysterious forest... east of the sun and west of the moon  

Thursday 7 May 2009

smoke and mirrors

spotted during my early morning perambulations in lovely Lier, Belgium

yes, you're seeing that correctly, those are leaf-shaped prints and here's a closer look 

lovely aren't they....but imagine the trouble involved in printing this fabric using synthetic dyes - when it could have been so much simpler [and far less poisonous] with a handful of leaves.


Monday 4 May 2009

blethering in belgium

a last few images from my 'day off' in London...those above from an architectural salvage firm near the old Cremorne pumping station

here's my mudlarking haul. that spotted egg is a nice addition to my collection of darning stones

after London i went to Belgium, a place i'd only ever shot through on a fast train. now that i've discovered just how delightful it is i'll be back often, i hope. travelling to London City Airport [arguably the nicest airport i've yet graced with my presence] on the Docklands Light Railway i spotted this splendid sinuous there someone out there who'd care to tell me what it is, please?

these friendly furries allowed us to collect leaves in their domain

my friend Marina organised a workshop to be held in her lovely garden...a labyrinth of delight full of trees and flowers, ponds and hidden corners
not to mention luscious weathered paintwork [which reminded me of the Rosalie Gascoigne exhibition in Melbourne a few months ago]

hard to believe this garden was coaxed from piles of rubble and metal left by a former ironmonger

the usual suspects, bundles full of promise...

we discovered that my oft-repeated phrase "time is your friend" was particularly relevant to strawberry leaf prints when they'd been made in the presence of iron. without any mordants they printed bright green, with iron [scrap, NOT ferrous sulphate] present they were first a gentle gold, but if kept moist would develop this lovely purple after a couple of hours

here's Wieteke, inspecting her woollen scarf [click on her name to visit her website, a wonderland of possibilities]

eucalyptus looking particularly gorgeous against the verdant green

and that lovely teal emerging in the dyepot is what happens to the dye made from red hazelnut leaves when it's allowed to lurk in an aluminium pot for an hour or so...

Saturday 2 May 2009

loitering in London

on Monday i escaped the broom closet at the Anchor [VERY different to the light and airy room they use to illustrate their website]
felt a bit Potterish
but the proprietess [?] kindly brought me onion skins for the class
so tis mostly forgiven

unusually i had a day "off"
so i decided to wander
somehow i found myself at the Garden Museum
[near the Lambeth Bridge]

there i discovered the tomb of the Tradescant family, famous gardeners and collectors of plants

the Museum garden was home to the flowers that had been popular in their time

i sat on a bench amidst a fragrant cloud of lily-of-the-valley and happily painted splodgy watercolours

[mind you, no splodgier than those of Le Corbusier whose life is presently under examination in an exhibition at the Barbican centre ]

after a time i wandered on heading west along the Thames. near the Vauxhall bridge i came upon a small ramp where access to the shingle was possible

my feathered friends watched as i collected fragments of flint, blue-and-white porcelain, blue glass, perfect pocket pebbles and [oh delight] a pearl button