Most artists and artisans spend many hours working alone. We draw creative energy from within ourselves. Affirmation comes from our patrons when our work is admired and purchased. As more and more commerce transpires over the Internet, there is less interaction between artist and patron, less provision for artistic encouragement. In the early days of my career, the fiber artists in my region were secretive about their methods, even about where supplies could be purchased. Again, the Internet for research, marketing, and social media has changed those circumstances, and whole online communities of artists now support, inspire, and encourage one another.
It was indeed a privilege to spend a few days apart from the routine of creating to be in the presence of others who create. From an online tie dyeing community, 32 people from 8 states gathered in Tennessee at Natchez Trace State Park in mid-October. David Childers at Custom Colours, Inc donated enough color swatch booklets for each artist to take one home. Mr. Childers also graciously facilitated donations of 50 lbs. of sodium carbonate from Surrey Freight and 49 lbs of dye from Standard Dyes in High Point NC. Prism Magic Clothing and Imports in Reno, NV donated more blanks than I could count. Seasoned dyers brought equipment to share, and willingly demonstrated techniques. Everyone generously pitched in consumable supplies.
Campers brought all kinds of items to tie dye, sheets, pants, tapestries, skirts, socks, and, of course, shirts. Bandannas and caps were tie dyed for Grateful Heads, an organization supplying headcoverings for cancer patients coping with hair loss. We did not have enough time to do all the activities we had planned, but we did learn and share a wealth of information. It was an enriching experience for all involved. We were surrounded by tapestries made by some of the Masters in our midst.
So how do 30+ folks create dyeing art in the woods with no laundry facilities? Volunteers brought tubs and buckets and garden hoses. A portable, 20-gallon laundry sink outfitted with a wringer allowed us to presoak many items simultaneously. After two passes through the wringer, it was on to the clothesline to await tie up.
Artificial sinew, rubber bands, plastic twine, cotton twine, dental floss, plastic ties, hemostats, and who knows what else were used to bind the material after it was manipulated into patterns, scenes and designs.
Dye solution was mixed using spring water in one gallon buckets, using a submersible blender. From a selection of 25 colors provided by Standard Dyes, we sampled about 11 colors, using around 25 gallons of liquid dye. Since we had substantial leftovers, Participants were free to take unused dye powder home, and most did gather samples for later use. Sacks of sodium carbonate were great door prizes, too.
Dye was applied using syringes, squeeze bottles, injectors, droppers, pipettes, sponges, brushes, and sprayed on.
On Saturday afternoon, our lesson in arashi shibori was fun and informative.
Several folks tried the pole wrapping technique.
Sunday morning a demonstration of dye removal, discharging, was received with enthusiasm. SoftScrub cleanser was used to discharge the color from black garments.
Several garments were ice dyed with spectacular results. Dry dye powder is sprinkled on a ice-topped, tied item. Or dry dye powder is sprinkled on a pre-soaked tied item, then ice is piled on top of the dye. As the ice melts, the dye is slowly distributed through the folds of the material, creating a unique, water colored appearance. A future guest blogger will describe this process and its variables in great detail. Stay tuned! Pictured is a denim jacket iced dyed using several shades of red dye.
Stars were popular designs among the campers.
A sample of techniques, from spirals to pleats, and beyond.
Wash out was a big challenge without the use of laundry facilities. Using a garden hose and sprayer for rinsing, and that handy sink and wringer, a washing method was established that was clumsy and labor intensive. We used about 200 feet of clothes line strung between the trees as a dryer. There were many joyous moments at the hose.
Three days in the company of kindred spirits in the beautiful woods was a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Friendships were forged, inspiring art was created, and a blending of artistic expression celebrated. Let’s do it again!