Friday, 22 November 2013

a tangled web

today i was planning to write about what i'd been up to this week
that i needed to make a new scarf [gave the last one away to my uncle who drove from Colorado and back again to visit with me on the weekend]

with the added confession that i was missing the fragrance of home so much
that i actually went and bought some bunches of eucalyptus to play with [sound of hand being firmly smacked]

and that i then quite unexpectedly found a friend here in Portland
whilst wandering the Hoyt Arboretum [with aforementioned uncle]

it's a snow gum and so is an excellent choice for its location [in the wintergarden]
except that it may get bigger in this protected locality than at home in the Australian Alps
[where it would be clinging to a hillside and subject to horizontal ice storms]
and crowd out its neighbours

Eucalyptus pauciflora : snow gum

that it is getting cooler by the day
and so some armies were needed to keep my gathering paws warm
prints from windfall snowgum leaves
and the other side

note : the slender leaf prints are quite a different colour to those on the SilkyMerino shown in the photo at the very top. this is because the sleeves were snipped from a sweater that had been washed several times and thus had been premordanted with a sodium-rich substance

i was also going to mention that there are easier ways of straining bananas
than putting them through a pillowcase
the straining part is fine
it's the washing of the pillowcase that is the tedious part.
bananas have fine stickability and if even minute parts are left attached are almost impossible to dislodge once dry

wandering in the Japanese Garden again yesterday
i betook myself to the small shop there and leafed through a few books
one devoted to furoshiki offered a the perfect answer
reminding me that a piece of cloth can be used to hold all sorts of things
so i tied a piece of cloth to the handles of the strainer by the ears
because there were too many bananas to stuff into a sock

it does look a little as though i have just regurgitated my porridge
but more of that later

continuing my stroll i found an exquisite pond

in which leaves and fir needles were floating
here's a closer look

and then when you take the colour away

it looks curiously like a fusion between the hands of Dorothy Caldwell and Christine Mauersberger
which is kind of sweet, because i first met Christine when we both took Dorothy Caldwell's class in Ohio back in 2009

which was around about the time, or a little after, that i remember receiving a number of emails from Cassandra Tondro with questions about various processes described in my book Eco Colour

so it was a bit surprising to read in Handeye today her description of the ecoprint idea as coming to her from the pavements. maybe she had indeed previously discovered the technique that way [zeitgeist and all that], but if so she didn't mention it in the correspondence.

Christine  kindly said a few words which provoked a comment on her blog suggesting that i in turn had purloined the technique from Karen Diadick Casselman. actually, i didn't.

to set the record straight :

Karen Diadick Casselman's dyeing in bundles that i experienced [as her assistant] at the time she visited Australia in 1998 involved wrapping leaves and cloth together with a range of what i consider to be toxic mordants [as well as household substances such as cleaning sprays and perfumes]. She also did some very fine work with lichens and barbed wire.

We corresponded for a long time and I've always squirmed when people describe my work as 'eco-dye' because Karen coined that particular phrase and it really belongs to her. 

The descriptor 'ecoprint' came into use through my thesis work with eucalyptus as i considered at the time that being able to test the leaves for dye potential by steaming a leaf in a bundle for a short while as opposed to the energy-hungry process of boiling out the leaves for an hour and then heating the cloth in the resultant liquid for an hour [where the dye colour was going to be changed by the water quality anyway] to see what the colour might be [was more sustainable]. 

But I suppose i should have called it Latvian-Easter-Egg-Dyeing-But-On-Cloth which is where i got the idea from myself [before I met Karen]. My family has been dyeing eggs that way for at least 150 years [that's as far back as the handed-down-memories go] and so have many other European folk.
that would be the truest attribution. except it's a bit of a mouthful.

and as for printing on paper, my great-aunt, Master Bookbinder Ilse Schwerdtfeger was doing that back in the 1930s except that unlike her great-niece, she used pressure and time [and a few "eye-of-newt" mordants] whereas i use a cauldron. i wrote about her work in IAPMA Bulletin 52

and now if you've read this far you deserve a gold star. and what i had been planning to mention somewhere along the line and now comes just as you're dropping off is the hot news that Christine Mauersberger has recently been confirmed as teaching down-under next year at the Geelong Textile Retreat, that splendid annual event organised by Janet de Boer and her tireless team and TAFTA

the event also features other luminaries including Dorothy Caldwell and Sandra Brownlee [but i think their classes are already full]

and before you leap to the comment box and tell me to get back in mine...i'm not criticising Ms Tondro. i just found it curious that the appellation 'ecoprint', as well as the process should serendipitously appear from the pavements.

that's all.  and i think it should do for a while.


  1. Furoshiki must be in the wind as I borrowed 2 books last week from the library. Thank you for clearly explaining eco print and for promoting my class. I have 3 students already!

    1. I'm from Buffalo, NY and I just found you as a result of India's post today. Your work is beautiful and inspiring. Do you ever teach in the US?

    2. Hi Emily, I would love to teach in the US. As I live in Cleveland, it would be easy to arrange…do you have an idea about a venue?

  2. I'd like to comment coherently, but it's been a Rey rough day so may I just say......Brava!

    1. Oops! That's supposed to say "a really rough day".

    2. Sorry you've had a tough day - thanks for dropping in despite it

    3. Sorry your day is meh. I am sending super big hugs.

  3. Big old sticky spider web. Thankful to be lurking in a flimsy web in a far away corner. Sounds like a great line-up for you all down there.

    1. Looking forward to my own far away corner soon too. Won't be at the Geelong event myself, staying quietly home down on the farm...

  4. Sorting out such a tangled web has resulted in an interesting trip along the development of techniques - so Thank you for the journey and do keep writing, I love following this blog.

    1. And I am grateful that you swing by and leave messages - thank you

  5. The more I read your writings and your books and hear your voice in the video the more deeply I love you and the way your are and aren't.

    Susan ( thanx again for answering my email about the verdigris in the copper cauldron)

  6. You don't just proffer techniques. You live and espouse a particular ethos. Every goddess has her adherents dear. Rest assured that your authority is plain as day out here beyond the madding crowd.

    1. Just trying to do the best I can ...but I have no aspirations to deity. That's for my grandmothers!!

    2. And my very special Auntie.

  7. India lovely fabric you have done , interesting about the water and the sleeves the same her in Denmark, even i now cook the water if i do not have rainwater enough- thank you for explain about ecco dying , i cannot understand the discussion about who have done or not done , india flint or not , why ? Of course you learn from the person who have the greatest knowledge and i find your universe all the best for me !! Soon you will go back to your farm , wish you all the best on the way .

  8. india, your sleeves!!! go over to BO PRESS and see the post about sleeves…i thought it grand that yesterday your post and hers were "about" sleeves…she's a binder of marvelous miniature books.

    1. thanks for that, Velma...i hadn't seen that site before. love the drawing of the misplaced sleeves. my first attempts at sleeve setting were catastrophic and nearly drove my poor mother mad as she attempted to explain the process!

  9. sleeves work great on ankles too. it's cold here, i know.
    and pfffff. why do folks have so much trouble understanding respect.

  10. Funny I should come on here and find your reference to Dorothy Caldwell! Just visited the Knit & Stitch show at Harrogate (Yorkshire, England) and seen Dorothy's wonderful work. It really is awesome! And I was lucky to have met Dorothy herself, who was kind enough to chat with me, and generously allowed me to photograph her art. She mentioned you India, and how you got together whenever possible. And talked about the connections between sub-Arctic Canada, and inner Australia. A pleasure to have met her. Best wishes.

  11. Hey India! I heard that you're talking about me over here, and I thought I'd take a few minutes to reply.

    I've been involved in various forms of fiber arts all of my life. I dyed my own fabric for many years using the Procion MX dyes before becoming interested in natural dyes about 30 years ago. When the Internet emerged, I joined the Surface Design listserv, where some of us were experimenting with rust, mud, mold and leaves to create designs on fabric. The leaf prints grew out of my knowledge of natural dyes and my observations of nature.

    I did e-mail you when your first book came out, because I thought it was so beautiful. I told you about my less-than-stellar results using leaves to print on fabric, and you kindly suggested wrapping the fabric tightly around a stick. I actually still have that e-mail message from you! I also e-mailed you when your second book came out, because, again, it was very beautiful and moving.

    I never did get very good leaf prints on cotton or linen fabric, and abandoned the technique to focus on my painting, which is my primary artistic expression. My emphasis is on eco-friendly art, and I use repurposed leftover house paint to create my colorful abstract paintings.

    I do still enjoy making leaf prints on watercolor paper, which I offer on my website. I also do a few silk scarves around the holidays, which I knew would print better than the cotton/linen.

    Your Eco Colour book has been a great inspiration, but not the original source of my experimentation with leaf prints. I wanted the Hand/Eye article to inspire others to look to nature for inspiration as well as to consider eco-friendly ways to produce art.

    Best regards,
    Cassandra Tondro

  12. Hi India, I love your great aunt's name and I'll have my gold star now thank you.

  13. What very beautiful dye results! And what beautiful, thoughtful words about attribution. I had read Christine's first thoughts yesterday while popping over to her shop for thread and needles, and pondered the subject quite a bit overnight and today before leaving a comment. I actually like the Latvian egg dye name though acknowledge its impractical length! Your work speaks for itself in its originality.

  14. India, anytime you are in the US and would like a box or bag of silver dollar eucalyptus (Eucalyptus cinerea), just email me a snail mail address. I will be happy to have them fulfill their destiny and mail them to you (no charge). Celeste (