The Covid Cruise continues with even more stringent lockdowns, positives, and sicknesses, not to mention general incivility and political repression…So to keep my mind off the daily strife, I look to the bounty of the garden and all my friends and companions connected to the land for my faith and compassion. We cannot connect in person but we can still share our knowledge and love for what is growing around us.
In celebration of our common cause here are some quick tutorials for “how to get that plant dye onto my fabric.” The tutes are seasonal, organized by what’s happening now in my part of the planet.
What I have learned as a participant in this pandemic is: “when the going gets tough, share.” We are not the only living beings to experience this by any means so lets all grow up and work it bbn out.
Here is a link to my Patreon site, enjoy, share, support.
This week was a second crop of coreopsis along with the first cutting of woad. Coreopsis yields a stunning burnt orange in the dye vat while the leaves and flowers print an even deeper shade. Woad is the blue used traditionally in Europe and although is not as dark as Indigo does yield a wonderful Saxon blue. The Covid cruise does keep me close to home so for better or worse my activities are mostly connected to the studio and garden. Here are some highlights from this week’s dye vats. All pieces are cotton, soy mordant, coreopsis vat dye and eco printed.
Amid the chaos and violence of the past week emerged a request from a new IG friend to create a reminiscence of Los Angeles, the hometown we both share. My imaginary landscapes tend to be of moody oceans, while his are of urban skylines and vivid sunrises. So, it was my challenge to pivot and bring an urban landscape to the canvas. I began to prepare my palette of yellows – weld, osage, corepsis; reds – madder, cochineal; purples – alkanet, logwood; then indigo blues. After painting layer after layer of the dyes, earth and sky emerged. The skyline was added with an image transfer, then a layer of organza…more and more layers of dye. By then earth and sky were crying for peace and justice; the ugly underbelly of our country was exposed to all the world. The final piece has a darker more menacing mood then what I had planned, but as usual, I am not able to fully control my minds eye. This leg of the Covid Cruise has been truly a stormy experience
Dye plants! Two kinds of coreopsis-annual and perennial varieties, first year weld plants, and marigolds. This spring’s abundance of cool weather and rain has been truly a gift with no disappointments. The perennial coreopsis flowers go into an alcohol extraction jar and serve as my go-to yellow dye paint. For now, marigolds are also going into that jar as they have not bloomed in a critical mass. Now for the weld, my favorite color fast sacred weed. This week I will begin harvesting and drying leaves for stunning lemon yellow vat dyeing. Because the spring has been so giving, I will be able to harvest half the weld thisyear for dye and let the remaining plants winter over and go to seed next year. The yellow box looks a bit thin right now, but what I see is potential for bright shades of eye popping color.
I just finished a commission for a great family here in Bowling Green. Both are professors at our local University. We bumped into each other over the years through mutual interests in art, music, and local foods. Then they had the cutest baby boy! Recently M and I discovered we both were graduates of Kresge College at UC Santa Cruz and shared a passion for the ocean in all her moods. Here is the finished commission embodying our shared love: layers of Indigo, weld, and coreopsis dyes on rust dyed silk, sealed with cold wax medium. My title “Covid Cruise” honors our time in self- isolation.
With nothing but time and spring in full bloom I have the luxury of spending my days in the studio and the garden planting and collecting dye plants for my new art to wear creations. Most are sized for everyone and for sale online.
After the American Handcrafted show I was working on some orders and panicked because I wasn’t getting the colors I wanted: purples in all shades using madder, alkanet, and Indigo. All I was getting were reds from my madder, brown gluck from alkanet and deep blues from my indigo overdyes. So, last night I reread Lyles and realized that my madder purples come from a good iron and tannin pre-mordant. Also to extract purples from alkanet I needed do an overnight soak in alcohol. Finally, my Indigo overdye must be done using a very weak solution so the reds dominate. Needless to say, today was the day it all came together. I was able to work quickly adding madder and alkanet extracts and a weak Indigo to different pieces with very different but very successful results. The brighter pieces have a weld yellow background while the darker pieces were mordanted with tannin and iron.
I talk to customers a lot about my choice of materials – organic cotton jersey – because I want to share my interest in creating a sustainable art practice. The textile industry is one of our world’s biggest polluters and quite simply I don’t want to add to this mess with my little business. Never having made a New Year’s resolution, I stumbled upon one, while talking to Heidi Wilenius owner of Dandelion Wishes in Hopewell, New Jersey. I explained to her why I used plant dyes, organic cottons, and my opinions on the ethics of silk production. Two weeks later, it sunk in. I need to quit silk as magical and perfect a fiber ever imagined, the laborers involved are not well-treated, not to mention the lowly silkworm. So, thank you Heidi for allowing me to express myself to the point where I will finally put my thoughts into action. For you silk lovers out there, my consolation are the beautiful organic cotton jersey scarves fresh from the studio posted below.
This is my first wholesale show! If you are in Philadelphia, make sure to visit the American Handcrafted Show at the Convention Center this weekend, particularly EA1034 where I will be with my wholesale line of naturally dyed organic cotton wearables. https://cindyhouston.com/wholesale/