Saturday, June 21, 2014

The project with no name (yet)

Added several hours after posting:
I really wish I could say that I planned for this post to be published on the solstice, but I didn't. Nonetheless here it is, and it seems quite fitting. Happy Solstice, be it short or long of light where you are.

I've made a few adjustments to the images I showed in the last post and am now ready to make the final version, but I'm out of glassine. So while I wait for that to arrive from Melbourne, I thought I'd tell you about the long term project I've been working on for a while.

If you've been reading this blog for a while you probably realize that I'm not particularly enamoured with Brisbane as a place to live. Nevertheless, I do live here for now, and in the spirit of increasing my awareness, relating to the seasons, and simply "getting more from something if you give more", I began this project.

Although I live in a small unit block, we have some small common garden areas and I have a large patio where I grow some pot plants. I've started to gather plant matter from the trees and bushes in the garden and my pots, and am doing tests to see what colours and marks they produce.

I've added to these with flowers and leaves that I receive as gifts, as well as collecting leaf fall from a couple of deciduous trees in the next couple of streets. Here in a subtropical Brisbane autumn is barely marked by the delicous colours that deciduous trees provide in other areas of Australia, but they are still the most potent symbol of that season, to my mind.

I'm also thinking of using some kitchen scraps, like onion skins and avocado pits, but I'm drawing the line at buying something we don't actually eat, like purple cabbage, for instance. The point of the project is to be a document of this place and time, so I don't want to add in plants just for the colour they provide.

I'm also choosing to include some things from my mother-in-law's garden, because she plays such an important part in our lives at this time. She lives in the next suburb, and we go to her place for dinner twice a week. She is the only one of our parents still alive and it feels right to include her in the record of this time and place.

Before dyeing swathes of fabric, I've been doing some tests with a few mordants to see the colours I can get, following a method described by India Flint. I've been using alum powder, copper sulphate, tea, and a home-made aluminium mordant made using alfoil and vinegar.

Below are scans of my journal pages documenting the tests for rose and callistemon leaves, and gerbera flowers, plus a few other bits and pieces. As silk is the most receptive to the natural colours, that is what I use for these initial tests, plus some tests on cotton rag paper, because I'm also interested in using the dyes as stains or watercolours.




Finally, here are some larger pieces of dyed fabric, including some bundled ecoprints. The fabric is silk, unless otherwise noted.

Gerbera flowers
Rose leaves

Callistemon flowers and leaves



And what's the plan for all of this? I don't have a clear outcome in mind yet. I just know that the work is about this place and this time. I definitely see it as a document, a record, and in that sense at least, as a book. I'm excited to start putting things together, but I know the collecting isn't done yet, and there doesn't feel as if there is a need to rush. The work may be a farewell to Brisbane...but that remains to be seen. For now, I'm very happy to continue as I have begun.



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14 comments:

  1. this definitely speaks to me....

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    1. Thanks Ronnie, it's good to hear that. It is making me feel more grounded already.

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  2. Interesting. I did quite a lot of dyeing years (many years!) ago. Only small batches, but had a lot of fun and a very original wardrobe!
    I'll send this like to Mo.

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    1. Hi Di! Is there anything you haven't tried? It seems you are like me, a woman with widely ranging interests. Thanks for passing this on. I don't know Mo, although I feel we have crossed paths, perhaps on Jude Hill's blog.

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  3. What lovely colours you are producing, Amanda! This is a great project and very worth while, I feel. As usual you ae doing the things I'm just thinking about, but I do enjoy living vicariously...

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    1. Thanks Carol. You are doing things I wouldn't dare contemplate. Metal is outside my comfort zone, I'm afraid, although I love the results. Watching the things that others produce is a wonderful part of blogging, I think.

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  4. What a lovely exploration Amanda - it feels very grounding and telling a beautiful story of place. Sometimes we don't know where it takes us, or why, we just know we must. Go well.

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    1. Thank-you Fiona. Yes, I feel more connected straight away, and that is very satisfying. If you look hard enough, there is always something of value to be found.

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  5. That sounds like a wonderful, slowly developing project. Already your journal looks so interesting - I understand that you are planning to do something more elaborate, but the journal as such works already as a book about what sourrounds you, I would think. I struggle to understand and say what exactly it is that is so touching about the procedure, and makes this project seem right. I guess already the process of looking for colours and dyes is an act of tender awareness of the sourroundings that make it very credible as a proparation toward a book about where you are living.

    Sometimes these ideas seem to hang in the air, ripe to be harvested by different people. Do you know Elina Lundal alias Veterok (http://www.veterok.net/)? She is an amazing book binder, and seems to be engaged in a very similar project - but she is less verbal about it than you, so I am not sure. I recommend checking out her photo stream here:
    http://www.ipernity.com/doc/veterok

    Looking forward to seeing how this will evolve!
    Hilke

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    1. Thank-you Hilke! Your response is very encouraging and it really makes me happy that my work resonates with you. Thanks also for your comment about the journal already being enough for a book. For some reason I hadn't thought of it that way, and I really like the idea. In addition to whatever else I make.

      And another thank-you for the link to Elina. I had not seen her work before and there is much to absorb and delight on her various sites. Interesting that she is in Finland, almost as far away as possible from Australia!

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  6. What a cool idea Amanda! I really love this as a kind of meditation on and connection with place. The samples are just beautiful as art objects in their own right.

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  7. Thanks Nancy. I'm really pleased that I shared this project at this stage as the comments I'm receiving are so affirming and are opening my eyes to more and more possibilities.

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  8. I also think that your journal pages can definitely be part of the book. Your samples are beautiful and the overall feeling I get from these pictures is warmth, deep emotion. Strange how you can convey that even while saying that you are recording your experience of a place you don't like very much. Surely the beauty is in you. I understand working without really knowing where it will take you, in my case it's when I get the results I like best. Looking forward to more about this project.

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  9. Thank-you Ersi! That is such a lovely thing to say. Some people love Brisbane. It just doesn't make my heart sing, the way some places I've been do. And because I have so many days or hours where I'm forced to be inactive and just "be" where I am, I'd like to be somewhere that's more nourishing to my soul. But you are right, there is beauty here, I just need to dig a little deeper and be more creative to find it for myself.

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