Easing into darkness and light

I’ve been invited to participate in Grand Marais Art Colony‘s annual spring theme exhibit, entitled Rhythms of Darkness and Light. Participating artists will make new work in response to the theme. The show will be held March 23 – April 1, 2012. (NOTE: I’ll be teaching a katazome workshop at GMAC this coming summer.)
As I delve into this rich motif, I will share some of my process here. I’ll be working on several closely related pieces simultaneously, one of which will go into this show.

Playing with leaf bundles (as taught by India Flint in her marvy book) last week felt like the perfect way to begin contemplating the theme, allowing space for my imagination to simmer. My intention is to explore the use of these subtle prints as a background to imagery made with layers of rice paste, stencils, and natural pigments (katazome materials and techniques).

Beginning, there many images floating in my mind. A memory of a walk around my local pond near the summer solstice of 2010 is mingling with walks this winter where bare branches – subtle in color – and gray skies are dominant.

As you know if you’ve visited this blog before, katazome is a centuries old Japanese tradition. Sometimes it’s perplexing to explain  to people why I am so passionate about these luscious materials and labor-intensive, exacting processes. This article, does a great job beginning to explain it, within the context of an exhibit review. Have a look:  Beauty in all things

 

Subtle November color

Today is a misty day down at the pond, with subtle November colors under a gray sky.

mistyshore
misty shore
mossonash
moss on ash tree
blackwillow
black willow, native to this area

 

I see these colors reflected in the silk and wool from my latest (and likely my last until next year) leaf bundle experiment. I had collected so many leaves I couldn’t see my work table. So I bundled them in silk and wool strips. The wool was treated first with alum. The silk had been soy sized some months ago. Simmering them in onion skin extract gave lovely rust colored edges.

riverbircheco
River Birch and Japanese Maple on wool (with onion skin edges)
oakeco
White Oak and Swamp White Oak on wool
misceco
Black Willow and Black Chokeberry on silk
rosablandaeco
Smooth Wild Rose on silk

The thrilling ecoprint process (as developed then shared “whirled”-wide by India Flint) transforms the fleeting beauty of these leaves to something we can savor over time.  I’ll add the strips to my personal quilt weaving, started long ago (a technique learned from Jude Hill of Spiritcloth).

Leaf bundles unwrapped

Last Thursday our natural dye study group met to bundle leaves and cloth together, following the eco-print method developed and deeply researched by India Flint (and explained in her luscious book Eco Colour.) I had tried this on my own several times with disappointing results. But this time, persistence, patience (well – a little more), the chemistry of autumn leaves, along with the camaraderie of cohorts have conspired in my favor. I am delighted with these results!

wool

No mordant used for the first simmer, approx. 1 hour in water. After a couple of days, I drizzled an alum solution (a pinch of alum dissolved in 100 ml hot water) over the bundle (edges, sides, etc. sort of randomly), and simmered it again (still bundled) in a weak walnut dye bath. After a couple of days wrapped in bubble wrap on my radiator, I then unwrapped it (so impatient!).

The leaves I used for all these results include: Canada red chokecherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’), Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), and Candymint Crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Candymint’). After arranging the leaves in a layer I then sprinkled on the onion skins (yellow). With the exception of the wool scarf, I bundled 2 or 3 layers of fabric and leaves over a birch branch from my neighbors tree. All bundled tightly with string.

pinks
silk and cotton

Above, 2 strips of silk over 2 strips of cotton muslin. The muslin had been soy sized some time ago and was put aside in my studio and forgotten about. I had played with natural dye extracts on the silk months ago, some pinks came from that. My meadow rue pattern was also printed with natural dye extracts. The 3 green leaf images near the top left are Chokecherry and Crab apple. The cotton is much more subdued, yet still lovely.

greenmaple
Japanese Maple

Not surprisingly, the Japanese Maple left a beautiful impression.

chokecherry
Chokecherry

The onion skins made these pieces something special, I think. I especially enjoy the green of the Chokecherry with the rusty oranges.

Mulberry

(The Mulberry is one of my favorite leaf shapes.)

I am enticed by the rich, organic colors, the visual complexity, the sense of depth given by the layering of leaves and fabrics. So glad this is prime leaf collection season … I came home today with several varieties of Oak as well as more of the above. I look forward to playing with these techniques along with katazome materials and processes!