Featured Artist Barbara Harman; Revisiting a collaboration

This  month’s featured artist is Barbara Harman, who was my mentor for two years (2005-2006) as part of the WARM Mentor program. Barbara works in painting, printmaking, book arts and fiber arts. I was drawn to her as a mentor because of her wide-ranging facility with materials and processes, her appreciation of hand stitching and other fiber arts, and because she finds her primary inspiration in natural forms, as I do.

Here is an excerpt from Barbara’s artist statement.

“The longer I have lived in this part of the Midwest, the more my art has become about the abundance and compressed view of the natural landscape. When I go to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge south of Minneapolis, there are few places where it is possible to see for any distance. Over the years, I have become increasingly focused on what lies between me and that distance. My most recent works dispense with any attempt to separate intervening elements. I am engaged in reassembling my experience of layer upon layer: trees, leaves, grasses, water, birds, flowers, seeds. I want to reflect the crowded abundance of what I see, at the same time answer what I experience as a demand to pay closer attention. I often isolate something in a piece to comply with that demand. I’ll bring it forward, enlarge a small detail, incorporate text, add stitching or beadwork. I want to draw my viewers in, past what is transparent to what may be hidden or overlooked. I want my work to reveal the things that may be only imagined: the bird singing high in the canopy, the roots of a tree buried under earth and snow.

While working together in 2005-06, Barbara and I collaborated on the piece shown below. Our collaboration started with small pieces of hand dyed fabric, which we printed, painted and embellished, and passed back and forth a couple of times, each adding to what the other had done. Eventually we had a stack of pieces, which we decided to arrange quilt-like on a dyed, stenciled and hand-quilted background. When I look at this piece I see windows showing glimpses of the places we walked through; I also recall bits of conversations we had as we worked together over the two years.

 Wall quilt © Kit Eastman and Barbara Harman2006
Wall quilt © Kit Eastman and Barbara Harman2006

Here is a close-up of one of the rectangles. Barbara added the beading to this piece — click the image to zoom in.

 dyes, beads on linen
dyes, beads on linen

More natural dye learning

I took a wonderful one-day workshop at Minnetonka Center for the Arts with Karen Rognsvoog, who has been dyeing with plants and teaching others how to collect, grow, and dye with plants locally for over 3 decades. Check her website for upcoming classes if you are in the Minnesota or Wisconsin area.
We each dyed 8 oz of natural wool yarn and 2 silk scarves, using a selection of plants grown and/or gathered locally by Karen as well as a few extracts and dyestuffs purchased from other sources. Here are my results, followed by a list of plants we used. Karen really has her teaching process down – with 3 hot plates going and many buckets of soaking plants. I was really impressed with how much we could dye in one 7 hour day!


Plants used, starting with the palest yellow include:

  • bracken fern
  • sunflower
  • sunflower with a bit of tin added to the dye bath for a second dip (to brighten the color)
  • osage orange (not a local plant, but with wood shavings from a piece of wood on sale from a hobby woodworking shop)
  • madder root (pale peach)
    * madder root along with iron added to sadden/darken the color
  • white yarrow (the pale green) with copper added to modify the color
  • buckthorn – brighter green (an invasive here – good use for it!)
  • buckthorn with copper (the avocado shade)
  • indigo
  • logwood purple (from extract powder)

The silk scarves were dyed first in sunflower, manipulated with shibori techniques, and then over dyed in logwood purple (left scarf) and indigo (right scarf).

I may just knit a pair of multicolored socks in time for next winter…

I’m interested in applying this new plant dye knowledge along with katazome materials and techniques in creating more layered works.

Starting tomorrow I will be attending the International Surface Design Association Conference – Confluence, which Minneapolis is hosting for the first time! I’ve never attended before so am really looking forward to taking it all in!