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.