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/
This weekend will be beautiful here in Kentucky. A cool, crisp morning, followed by a brilliantly sunny afternoon. A perfect day for tailgating, yes, but also for art! The World’s Greatest Studio Tour is an annual event in Bowling Green, KY in which artists of all flavors open their studios to the public for showing and selling their work. Take some time to participate in this locally grown event and become the proud owner of one of a kind artwork. I am on the tour in the Pushing building on Fountain Square with five other artists. Drop by and say hi! worldsgreateststudiotour.com #worldsgreateststudiotour