Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Natural Dyeing Workshop

I can't begin to tell you what fun I had last week, but I'll try. I went to a workshop being held at the Potters Farm Studio belonging to Claire Benn of Committed to Cloth. The workshop was run by Michel Garcia who's research into sustainable and benign methods of dyeing using natural dyes and mordants, I'd come across before from a various mentions in blog land and on YouTube. 

I had no idea what to expect, being pretty new to the whole process of dyeing fabrics. What I got was a week of fascinating experiments, made all the more fun by Michel's warm personality and quirky humour. He is an expert in the subject, having a background in both chemistry and botany, and took the group through the process step by step, to show us how different mordants react with different dyestuffs. We had three days of experimenting with fabrics, dyes, mordants and as many variations on those three things as we had time for and materials to work with, including going out into the lovely surrounding landscape and collecting fresh plant material to see what happened. His teaching process takes you step by step in a very methodical way, creating swatches of fabric with patches of each of the mordants and dyes so you can see exactly what you will get. The magic comes from placing a piece of plain fabric with splotches of mordant into the pot, and pulling out a multicoloured sample to use as reference. In the final two days we were introduced to the indigo dyevat (also known as the donkey), using resists and multiple dips in the to create a range from deep blue to white. We then applied mordants and dyes to get a full range of colours on one piece of fabric. It really was inspiring, and Claire's studio is a wonderful place to learn, especially as she generously gave us time after the formal teaching to finish off, or prepare for the next day. We were also treated to delicious meals each day to give us energy for our experiments. 

The rest of the class were all experienced textile artists of one sort or another so I felt very much the amateur, but the opportunity to spend a week with this group of creative people was a genuine pleasure and I learned a great deal both from Michel and Claire, and from watching the the way the rest of the group worked. It taught me that we are all different, and that there isn't necessarily a "right" way to be creative, just the way that works for you. 

I would love to say that I'm now going to put into practice all that I learned, so it sticks in my mind. However, life doesn't usually work this way. This week I am looking after my beloved Aunt Cecil while her carer is away and next week it will be straight back to work which, over the past several months, has been full on and left me coming home each evening with not an ounce of energy to spare. I'll store all the learning (and samples) up until such time as life settles down and I can give myself some down time to have another go, 

Here are a few images - just to give you an idea of what we did, rather than because I think I achieved anything wonderful!


The dye swatches - my reference charts


some experiments with screens various


some happy fishes



and a few bits of indigo shibori 

If you have the chance to attend either a workshop by Michel, or one run at Potters Farm, I'd really recommend it.

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