For The Love - Natural Plant Dyeing
I have been cultivating a relationship with nature, the forest especially, for many years now. Forest has become a place for me to remember life outside the limitations of the patterned mind, what is worth dwelling in and what is not, a place to free myself from the drama of the mind and remember the heart. Loneliness disappears when you step into honouring nature and its myriad of interconnection. Worthiness is not questioned, simply being is all there is. Energetic whispers of belonging, reminders that you too are nature. It started with long walks, slow, curious, observing, looking, smelling, feeling, watching sunlight dance through trees and glisten on recent rain or dew drops. The passing clouds or wind blown branches that cause the forest to dance in dappled light. Next came contemplative photography of forest stories and treasures as they transformed weekly, through the seasons before my eyes. A friend who shared the secrets of foraging plants and mushrooms for delicious meals, opening my heart wide to a natural sense of abundance. Then the curiosity of plants that could create colour began to tug at my heart strings with gifts of possibility.
I took a lone road trip down to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to the Arrowmount School of Art and Crafts for a delightful week long course with Sasha Duerr, a master creatrix of plant colour exploration. The magic of creating colour with rose peddles, avocado pits, red maple leaves, cabbage, oak gall, and so much more was so satisfying and infinitely expansive with possibility.
We had a choice of final project so I chose to do an installation.
My drive home was filled with curiosity of all the roadside weeds, wondering what colour each would make. Fresh eyes, seeing so much more, just like the photography and foraging had gifted me with a deeper relationship with nature, the possibility of colour from nature once again deepened the desire to know Her more.
Plant dyeing is a long process, one of curiosity, patience, strong arms and time.
First the items to be dyed must be rinsed and scoured, then soaked in a mordant, like alum or soy milk, then dried. Then, after the chosen plants have been foraged, a dye bath is made, the plants are cooked in a large pot, sometimes for days, once a desired colour is achieved then the dipping begins. There are many ways to do this and each plant and colour uses different techniques, all which are an experiment, affected by water source, soil they grew in, location and so much more. Often things will soak in the pot for quite a time, then they are dried, then dipped again, and dried and dipped again, until layers of colour are the shade the maker is looking for. This can take several days or weeks. Then ideally you can let it sit dry for a few weeks to set. It is a labour of love that is reward with the delight of the vibrational hue that each dye batch uniquely offers.
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