Photo: slow creations

Photo: slow creations
Threads of life

onsdag 7 augusti 2013

Natural dyeing – a workshop with Jeanette Schäring and a glimpse of my personal journey

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring: shibori (resist-dyeing) at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

As many others, I first encountered plant dyeing in the 70s and, for me, 80s. I clearly remember going with my mum to courses and afterwards starting our own dyeing, boiling plants on the beach at the summerhouse on Gotland. I remember the plant collecting, the smell from the cooking, the feeling of community and of course the results (still have some yarns left…).

Since some years now, there is a growing awareness of the dangerous effects that conventional textile dyeing has on the environment and health of the textile workers as well as wearers. One response to these facts is to take up natural dyeing, an usually slow and transformative process. 

The methods of natural dyeing has been renewed since the 70s-80s. Many artists and independent fashion designers (as well as a few highly commercial labels such as Levi´s Made and Crafted (as far as I can see focusing on indigo) work with different processes of transforming this aspect of nature and its mysteries to textiles and clothes. 

Usually, rather mild mordants are being used (in comparison to the earlier often harsh methods of the 70s-80s) and some doesn´t use them at all, relying on the process itself and also maybe not in need of colour fastness (for example in some textile art works) – or striving for that (instead pursuing the process, patina and beauty of “aging” textiles). Sometimes artist and designers also work with additions as rust (as in rust water or rusty objects) and other matter such as bicarbonate and sour things such as lemon juice that change and add to the colour effects.

Rust as dyeing component. From a workshop by Jeanette Schäring. Photo: slow creations

My own old new interest and fascination of natural dyeing began with inspiration via fiber artist Abigail Doan, one of the now active most important, generous and inspiring artists for me, and her network, for example Sasha Duerr, founder of Permacouture Institute. I started experimenting after buying Duerrs´s book this winter. I also saw works by Swedish artist Jeanette Schäring at the exhibition The National Association of Swedish HandicraftSocieties 100 years (see for example my previous post and was astonished. I just could not forget her art works! They were truly mysterious, beautiful at the same time as they were a bit strange and with a very special feeling. I dreamed of one day to have some sort of contact with Jeanette... Little did I know what would happen as I this late spring (May 2013) had the wonderful opportunity to study for her at a workshop hosted by Etnografiska museet (Museum of Ethnography) in Stockholm. Arrangers were Anna Lauri and Eva Melldahl (from Nämnden för hemslöjdsfrågor) with the starting point in the rich collections of the museum (especially the exhibition"Magasinet") and evoking questions about collecting practices and modernity versus ”tradition”.

This post will tell and show a little from that workshop which was intended for students at several Swedish art and crafts institutions (as I´m not such a student I was very happy to be allowed to participate anyway). 

Jeanette Schäring´s works of art and pomegranate at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations

Jeanette Schäring´s materials at the workshop (May 2013). Photo: slow creations
In connection to her on-going exhibition Matter in Motion and the mysticism of Nature´s colour at Göteborgs botaniska trädgård (until 22 September), Jeanette has said: In my work I combine cultural heritage, millennium-old, dynamic dyeing techniques with digital media and high-tech analysis. By highlighting new opportunities and make way for the natural color as an environmentally friendly alternative to our often toxic and, out of the viewpoint of resources, impoverishing, synthetic pigments, we can take back a forgotten craft tradition in a new way. Herbal colours offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes when it comes from plants, that are renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable. (Quote from Göteborgs botaniska trädgård´s Facebook page, translated by me).

Besides giving erudite, excellent, mind-blowing lectures on the more theoretical part of natural dyeing and the environment as well as opening up questions about both dyeing and cultural history and the future of human existence itself in this time of extreme consumption, fast fashion, and climate challenges, Jeanette Schäring first of all invited us to go out in the beautiful surroundings of the museum to collect material (parts of plants). 

One of the stages in my attemps of "plant bundles". Photo: slow creations
We all made bundles of cloth (mostly cotton) with plants tied up (shibori) and putting them in for example a tea solution. One of the principles of new natural dyeing is to besides boiling/simmering the dye stuff and textiles as in the older method, also pouring hot eater on the plants in a glass container. 

Glass container with onion skins to dye with. Photo: slow creations

Ideally this could ripen over days and weeks in the sun in a window (solar dye) or outside, adding some fresh air now and then to the infusion which will take on its own life, still unexplainable for the scientists how it evolves and what really happens in the chemistry. As far as I know this is especially suitable or effective for onion skins and red cabbage (something I´ve tried myself with good results), but also other plants. One of the challenges of natural dyeing (especially for me being a beginner) is the randomness nature and not having a guarantee which is most exciting and thrilling, I think. Of course there are some “recipes” (as in Duerr´s book and also others, such as pioneer India Flint) and rules but the individual processes and circumstances (which water, temperature, plant stuff, eventual mordants and colour modifiers, which material used, i.e. silk or cotton etc) are considered most important.

Work-in-progress at the workshop. Photo: slow creations

Like a birthday party, unpacking our bundles of plants and textiles... Photo: slow creations

Unpacking my bundle with among others Japanese maple leafs

In short, to be given the opportunity to attend this workshop with Jeanette was one of the landmarks in my life in connection to creativity. 
 My meeting with Jeanette evoked so much for me! Love and spirituality... inspiration and exchange of ideas on both a personal and professional level. 

My journey continues and some of the results of my work-in-progress and finished pieces can be seen on my Facebook page. Together with my artist and designer friend Agnes Nissen, we have since spring (2013) been evolving a collaboration process. On our journey together we did a small exhibition in June at Agnes´pop-up store SwapShop in Stockholm about natural dyeing in our project called “Kitchen Couture Collab”  (Facebook event), a glimpse of our process up until then, a process which hopefully will result in a blog and a bigger exhibition in the future.

Slow fashion (onion skins, Japanese maple leaf, red cabbage on second hand shirt). Dyeing and photo by slow creations

Kitchen Couture Collab small exhibition (Agnes Nissen and slow creations), June 2013 in Stockholm. Photo: slow creations

Inga kommentarer:

Skicka en kommentar