Autumn in the Kaleyard

Kale is another word for cabbage. I learned recently that Scottish “Kailyard” literature displeased the artspeakers of the late Victorian era who found it sentimental and cottagey, not nearly edgey enough, too sweat-blood-and-tears free, so to speak. James Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan and Wendy' was a kaleyardist author, and thus much sneered at by the critics of ' kaleyard' (or 'kailyard') lit, a genre so- named for the ordinary country-Scot of tradition who had kept a cabbage patch ( or 'kaleyard') beside his wee house to feed his family way before the potato came north…You may even have noticed 'cole' (AKA kale or cabbage) depicted in medieval MSS. showing images of jolly, contented peasants tending seasonal crops.

In growing the absurdly handsome 'Lacinato' black kale (AKA 'Dinosaur' kale) this year, I had the most innocent of intentions, just looking for some kitchen dyes and a little summer salad. I had no idea this plant would turn out to be the decorative star of the front yard, a neighbourhood conversation starter like no other and an art-political statement besides. Here it is, flanked on the left by the lovely native great blue lobelia, or Lobelia syphilitica.

Dino kale leaves (backed by natives coreopsis on the right and black-eyed susans on the left, out of focus.)

 

Kale colour and texture are foils to a chartreuse barberry, saved from severe garden editing as a Native Plant Gardening Don't, only because it was too prickly to pull out that day – but which turned out to be a Garden Designer Do (Does Glamour magazine still run pics of their fashion Do's and Don'ts? ). The sedum 'Autumn Joy' is still summer green in this photo:

And here is the much-expanded kale beside the fall rust-pink of Sedum spectabilis:

 

Pollinators love the fall-blooming Michaelmas daisy:

 

Pot-grown indigo beside the kale: this will overwinter indoors, like Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria).

 

Calendulas love the cooler fall weather: and burnt orange beside kale green is eyepopping.

 

These humble, cottagey little kaleyard sparrows love their bath at ground level:

 

This is the sparrows' Birds' Eye view of the fall colours in my kaleyard. The lobelia has gone to seed. The rue (back left) is divinely thick and blue-green, lighter in tone than kale, with a lacey texture for contrast, harmony and repetition.

 

Looking up, the sparrows can see the black elder, native Sambucus nigra, in full fruit:

 

And under the bird feeder, some new garden sculptures by Shlomo, in my favourite orange and blue combo:

 

Fall means foraged wild apples for apple butter:

 

And for art this late summer and early fall, eco prints a-plenty, using mostly the native plants from my garden.

Coreopsis with Aronia melanocarpa berries and Prunus cistena leaves:

 

Prunus cistena, Aronia melanocarpa, sumac.

 

Japanese maple and grevillia (exotics!)

 

Varia:

 

Almost all native plant prints. The reds are coreopsis and bloodroot; the blues are various blue berries, e.g., aronia, elder and dogwood.

 

Iron enhanced prints from Cotinus obovatus, Baptisia tinctoria and Sanguinaria canadensis.

 

Ditto, as above; blues from red cabbage and aronia berries.

 

Plus an embroidered Artist Book or two: this one is about daisies ( o how kaleyard a topic!) and incorporates embroidered imagery along with vintage textiles (o how kaleyard an art!)

Spidey below was not the only weaver in the kaleyard:
 

 

This year, Kaleyard visitors were invited to weave fibers and plants on the garden loom (hinged like a gate to the shed and painted as near to Yves Klein blue as we could manage with Home Depot paint).

 

And finally, we began to hang up some of the art we have had stashed since we moved here a year ago: blue and orange, my faves:

 

Next time, more about Artist Books and native plants for eco printing; plus some long overdue updates to my other pages here, notably the tutorials page, the eco dye references and the plants.

I also have a set of thrifted chairs that need new seat covers and a new paint job. TBD!

 

Regards from your Kaleyardist blogger

 

Wendy

 

 

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August prints from native plants: Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Eco dyeing and printing are seasonal activities for me, closely tied to my garden's rhythms. Late summer and early fall in AgCan/USDA zones 4/5 is a period rich in accumulated plant pigments. Even though eco printing as a technique relies on the knowledge of tradional dyeing, it does not always turn up the same pigments in the dye pot as do the traditional “whole cloth, dye bath” techniques for dyeing fibres.

Furthermore, due to the nature of the eco print processes ( bundling, stacking, steaming, composting, tying, solarizing, etc.) , more than one colour may show up from one plant on a dye printed surface. This happens when the eco print processes force pigments in the plants to separate out into constituent colours on the surface of the substrate. These colour differences can often lost be when the plants are processed to extract colours by first heating them in water in a pot to make a dye bath, then processing the fibres in the dye bath to take up the colour.

I like to approach my print surfaces as if they were abstract compostions; thus, I am concerned with the interplay among colours, forms and field. The second image (rather far below) shows silk crepe de chine eco printed with a selection of native plants from my garden last week: a background lightly coloured pale- ish yellow by just a tad of goldenrod ( a few sprigs removed from the tops), a lot of coreopsis verticillata (the whole plant in bits) to give small, varied and strong red-orange marks, the blue-black berries of Aronia melanocarpa ( black chokeberry) smooshed on to contribute blue, purple and lavender areas to the field (plus the darks and lights of analagous colours, as does the coreopsis), purple sandcherry leaves for deep teal greens (not shown), and on the right, a Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quiquefolia) leaflet in its red fall colours – but scarcely any eco print from it.

This image right below shows coreopsis (red and oranges) and red cabbage (blues) on silk. The colours and distribution of forms across the field of the textile reminded me of flower paintings by Seurat and Odilon Redon- along with the orange-blue Impressionist fave colour combos. Playing with the dye outcomes is for me the most fascinating part of contact printing with plants

Back to the Virginia creeper (VC)

VC, a native vine, is not much used in the traditional dye pot, as far as I can tell. It seems to be a kind of Bait and Switch plant, flaunting spectacular red and purple fall foliage, adorned with rich bunches of black berries that birds devour; but it appears to be a Tame, Timid and Stripeless Tiger in the trad dye pot. Adrosko, Cannon, Casselman and Dean (to mention some Big Trad Dye Names, see my References page) make no mention of VC as a dye plant. Other sources do mention it but without enthusiasm: Richards and Tyrl in their book on on North American dye plants have it classified in their chapter about plants that give little or no colour, noting only a pale yellow-cream. ( I guess that is the chapter every poor dye plant dreads to be consigned to… But take heart, Virginia creepers. Eco printing is your friend.)

Daniel Moerman (in “Native American Ethnobotany” ) writes with erudition that the Kiowa Indian tribe (in Canadian usage: “First Nations” or Kiowa native peoples) obtained pink dyes from VC berries to colour feathers used in war dances.

The notion of long-term “fastness” is not generallly addressed, other than to recommend the use of the Usual Suspects as mordants. I suspect tannins and iron might help VC colour up in an eco print process more than in the trad dye pot.

The only really hopeful discussion about potential eco print colour from the VC appears in a 1986 publication entitled “Dye Plants of Ontario” from the Burr House Spinners and Weavers Guild ( see Reference page). The guild tested the vine for dye potential, using the whole plant, having gathered it in November and noting: “This vine is not known as a dye plant.”

With alum as mordant , a 6:1 plant-to-water ratio and 45 minutes in a simmering dye bath, the colour given is “butterscotch”. Other mordants were as follows: with copper, a rich tan; with iron, a golden tan. As a modifier post-dye bath, iron gave deep bronze; ammonia, a bright golden tan. Summer foliage gave ivory with an ammonia rinse, and olive greens with a vinegar rinse. No longer recommended as mordants are tin and chrome though the Burr House dyers did report their experiments with these.

Thus, with this info In mind, I plan to experiment further with the Virginia creeper as it matures in my garden and in the environs.

And after all that “learned” text above, I expect, Dear Reader, that you will be wondering when your author will finally put up the Eye Candy.

Here it is:

 

The red leaf on the right is one leaflet of the five leaflets ( the “quinque” in quinquefolia) of the Virginia creeper. But hardly any eco print at all. The reds and purples came from coreopsis and aronia berries, though of course, one could be forgiven for hoping the VC had printed thus. But we know that what we see in a leaf is not what we necessarily get on an eco printed substrate. (And I think snails ate the holes in the VC leaflet – the vine was covered in snails. )

Next, I will mess around with tannins and iron to see if an eco print can be coaxed out of the Virginia creeper. There were no iron bits, bark or tannin rich plants in the bundle shown here. Of course, I am just guessing that we could get a print from the VC in the environment of these mordants/dye assistants. TBD.

Inspiration for this post

Thanks to the edltor of the Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who asked me about fastness of dye in the Virginia creeper. That question became my research topic for today, and led me down this most interesting rabbit hole. I have been planting lots of the native Virginia creeper this summer to attract birds, to give fall colour, to cover the tattier parts of our fence and to give privacy. Perhaps VC leaves can make an interesting eco print, or perhaps the VC berries can dye some war dance feathers pink (gonna try for those pink feathers for sure but maybe will weave them into the garden loom instead of my hair. Turn swords to ploughshares, kind of.)

Meanwhile, here is a taste of some more Eye Candy in relation to future posts about dyeing with native plants. The next post will be about eco prints on silk with other native plants from my garden. See if you can guess the plants printed here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hints: Walnut, coreopsis, sumac, aronia berries, rose, cotinus, goldenrod, purple sandcherry.

 

Until next time

 

Wendy

 

Eco Print Fest!

Today's post shows more experimental prints made by students during the recent IMPRESS '13 International Print Festival. But first, a few thoughts in which to situate the sharing we can choose to aspire to as art bloggers. In the Foreword to the festival catalogue, internationally esteemed British painter /printmaker Hughie O'Donaghue remarks (with admirable humility, I would say, for this guy is a Big Wheel in art):

The fine art print is constantly changing and developing and it is a medium that is advanced by dialogue and exchange. Unlike painting, which is very much a solitary activity, printmaking often takes place in a social environment where artists gather together to share equipment and facilities and, as a result, inevitably exchange ideas. This dialogue is something I have prized in the various print studios that I have worked in over the years in Italy, Ireland and Great Britain.”

Here is some more work by other accomplished printmakers who participated in the festival and who also became students of eco printing:

An oak leaf: rust and logwood powder over …something yellow (no label…)

Eucalyptus (L) with iron modifier producing black outlines. Source of the blue? Could be juniper berries or bits of Red Cabbage.

Rectangular cuts of metal rusted with vinegar, printed on silk tissue, with Red Cabbage

Brushing on some of the dye modifiers, postprinting. Note the conscientious labelling!

Carrot tops (yellow-green) and logwood with a tad of Red Cabbage (blue), with colour mixing

Red Cabbage and kale

Metal pieces, rusted with vinegar, with dye powders on accordion folded watercolour paper. Much colour mixing, especially in the folds of the paper.

Sage and eucalyptus (L) modified with iron (R). Note the well-filled notebook (L)

Adventurous collection including juniper, Cow Parsley, nettles – modified with iron liquor (L) using a fan brush – giving the effect of raking light.

Sumac (pink), nettles, R.Cabbage et al, i.e., colour mixing taking place.

Turneresque euca with iron. Pigments leaked through from the prints on the back of the paper.

Lovely. Nettles? The green, centre. Rose leaves (L). R. Cabbage and sumac berries (R)

Euca, R. Cabbage and madder powder

Just vinegar and metal pieces on silk tissue to give a rust print

Rusted metal with plants and string resist. The shiny patches that look white are rust

Beautiful wash of colours. By now, can you guess? Colour mixing here is wonderful.

Another view of one shown in the previous post. Sumac and berries- juniper? mistletoe? Acorn cap?

On silk organza ( for chine colle) – ??? plants with string resist.

Crocus blue, mint yellow green, sumac pink

A repeat from last post – I remembered that this was a rose petal and not a rose leaf modified by iron to give dark shades

Here are some prints drying on the rack. Great to work in a real print studio!

While we were in the studio eco printing, Andy Lovell http://www.andylovell.com of the Gloucestershire Printmakers Collective and a participant in the festival was screenprinting up a storm on an adjacent bench. Here is one of his wonderful screen prints:

Not sure of the title. Would like to call it “Mine” . It calls to my mind the landscape of the Cotswolds, anyway.

..as does this landscape by Constable (seen in the Tate Britain)

…and this, my own photo of the Cotswolds looking over to Wales. Talk about “green pastures”…sigh….

More about the artists in the festival next time – including Damien Hirst! Subject of many debates, as is only proper for art…

And bearing in mind Damien's “dot” paintings – here, to finish, is how my grandson, Dylan, appropriates dots as an art medium:

Why stop at Red Dots?

And why stop at the hand as canvas? And why not include stars?

Best

Wendy

 

Winterlude Eco Dye Prints on Silk

To continue the previous dye report:

My “Winterlude” project combines dyeing with printing so as to extract plant pigments by immersing tied or clamped bundles/stacks of leaves with papers (cotton/cellulose fibres) and leaves with textiles (silk/protein fibres) in simmering/180 degree plant dyes.

Two summers ago, when I first began using natural dyes to print textiles and paper, I experimented with Purple Cabbage. See this image of silk crepe de chine below: No colour change, still lovely mottled blues. I had several pieces in my stash. What if I overdyed some with my winter leaves in a walnut dye bath? I love blues and browns and yellows together!

So to start with, I bundled the previously eco printed/dyed silk with the winter leaves over bamboo skewers so that I could snap them and bend them to fit the crockpot. I tied the bundle tightly with waxed linen thread, entered it into the dye pot and processed at a gentle 180 degrees for about an hour. I wanted the linen thread to make a lot of delicate lines of resist prints. You can tie linen thread really tight, too. (I got my linen thread at a leather work supply store. It is not easy to find and not cheap, either)

Here we are after the procesing and after the thread has been removed (I unbundled right away. No patience.) The thin, light lines on the bundle are the lines of resist prints. Of course, the waxed linen thread was dyed at the same time, its wax all melted off in the dye bath. The bendy bundle came about as a result of bending the bamboo skewers, as noted.

L
Now the reveal: The blues come from two sources: first, the acer palmatum prints:

Some blue patches, as in this detail below, are from the Purple Cabbage print that survived the walnut dye bath; the resist lines, now characteristic of this printing method, show beautiful marks from the walnut dye and linen thread:

Other views:

Resist lines: I LOVE the white tracery effect. This passage looks like something hand drawn, such a great contrast to the more diffuse prints and the colours.

Printed silk in front, printed linen at rhe back (more next post on linen) – the effects of the blue in the silk make a grey blue background on the silk, while the white linen, undyed previously, retains the lighter background colour. Both are lovely.

Walnut on Purple Cabbage blue mottles on silk, contrasted against the same leaf pigments on linen.

Below:

Part of the Winterlude collection, printed with winter leaves processed in dye baths.

Left to right:

1. Paper in coreopsis-tagetes 2. Linen in coreopsis-tagetes 3. Paper in coreopsis-tagetes 4. Linen in coeropsis- tagetes 5. Silk in walnut 6. Linen in coreopsis- tagetes 7. Paper in walnut

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

More next time – on vintage linen.

 

Forest Floor

A forest floor is a place of new beginnings, nurturing life from the detritus of the old, first drawing down the eye of the body and the eye of the mind so as to enable them together to look up and beyond.

Here are the first images of pieces for my upcoming show “Forest Floor”, July 2012 at the Shenkman Arts Centre, Ottawa. The work featured is contact printed with plants and rust on silks, linens, cotton and papers and stitched at various stages of the process.

“Eyes of the Forest” (22″ x 96″)

Silk habotai, contact printed with plants and rusted iron; hand stitched. Mounted for hanging on a plexi bar.

1. Section of the work, hanging.

 

2. Another section:

 

Third section:

 

Detail 1

Detail 2

Detail 3

Detail 4

Detail 5

Detail 6

 

Plants used for contact printing: red cabbage, safflower petals, Osage Orange (dye powder) rooibos tea, black tea.

 

Assembling the Chuppah: Almost Done

“Chuppah” means “that which covers or floats above ” ( cf. The New Jewish Wedding, Anita Diamant)

Silk organza and silk chiffon float nicely but they are not so easy to sew. Boy, do they slip and slide and stretch… and float away from your fingers. I cast my mind back to Needlework class at High School in England and to Sister Mary Joseph, our Needlework teacher, and all my wonky lapped, French and Run – and – Fell seams. Sigh. Indeed lovely. But time consuming. Could there be a less ” Slow Cloth” solution?

I tried a “short cut” to a faster cloth. What if I laid the textiles out on the wood floor, stuck it down with low tack tape and used the straight joints between the wood boards to true the fabric and to align the seams?

 

Not every “What If” works. All I got from this one was more wonky seams, just as in Needlework class. Several hours, some Avoidance Activity ( will report later on this) and much really picky seam unpicking later..

I was ready to heed Sister Mary Joseph’s advice: “Tack them in place first! “

It took me quite some time to baste four 72″ lapped seams but this is Slow Cloth and it was worth it. I even enjoyed it. The eucalyptus print panels were lapped to the Red Cabbage print overhead canopy after seam edges were zigzagged to reduce fraying/ and straight stitched for easy folding; then the seams were machine stitched flat. (I think the US for Sister Mary Joseph’s term is to “flat fell” a seam)

Next was the applique of motifs on the canopy. I had some misfortunes with the lettering on the canopy roof. For the English verse “His /Her Banner Over Me Is Love” I used very old fusible and so the letters peeled off after a few days…another lesson learned. For the replacement letters, figleaf motifs, Hebrew letters, Mogen David and Olive Branch appliques, I switched to new Steam A Seam Light. It took a couple of extra days to re-do the lettering but the results were satisfying.

Lettering lower left.

 

An Olive Branch entwines the letters on the canopy:

 

Fig leaf motifs in five layers of silk organza for the four corners of the chuppah, strong enough to support the poles and the canopy:

With a soldering iron, I burned holes in the fig leaf motifs for the screws on the finials to pass through, then fused the fig leaf “patches” to the corners of the chuppah.

The finial in place. We found the poles and finial on sale in the drapery department at a local fabric store

 

This house plant provided the template for the figleaf. Can you see a fig?

 

Remember the recent Red Cabbage experiments? These lovely blues and turquoises are now part of the chuppah.

 

All of these printed textile fragments are to be incorporated into the final phase of the chuppah construction as long ribbons or fringes attached to the poles at the corners. The ribbons go in groups of eight on each of the four poles to signify fringes, as on a prayer shawl.

Here are some of the ribbons in progress. The Red Cabbage blues are combined with fragments of other eco printed textiles in co-ordinating colours. The yellow silk is Golden Rod, the dark one is tea and rust printed, the light is a eucalyptus print, the blues are Red Cabbge.

 

The edges of the chiffon and organza ribbons need restraint and a narrow zigzag does a pretty job of edging. For readers cringing at the very thought of how long it might take to zigzag around 32 ribbons, 72″ long:

SURSUM CORDA! Lift up your hearts!

It took me ten minutes to make one ribbon after cutting it out: so six minutes to sew one ribbon, two more minutes to iron it and another two minutes to trim off the “beards” with my trusty little Fiskars snips. Add five minutes as guesstimate for cutting, so fifteen minutes per ribbon times thirty- two.

Thus, four hours to make the ribbons ONCE the printing is done…and the amount of time for eco printing is another story…Slow Cloth indeed.

 

Finally, here is a pic of part of the chuppah in progress with lettering and leaf motifs in place. The blue of the sky today (it was a ridiculous 80 degrees F here in Ottawa!! ) and the blue of the silk roof of the canopy look almost the same. That was the idea- for the Bride and Groom to look above their heads, for the canopy to disappear almost against the sky and see only blessings on their wedding day.

 

Last pics of the chuppah before the wedding will be to show the ribbons all done and the 16 small “buntings” or “prayer flags” in place. After the wedding (first weekend of May) I will post pics of the finished textile.

Next post: Avoidance activity: eco printing with blue hyacinth

Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry 3

A bit of FYI

The dyes in Red Cabbage are sensitive to shifts in pH. By altering pH, I hoped to obtain colour variation. I used a meter to test pH. So to review last session, but this time throwing in the pH info:

Jar 1. Red Cabbage in 250 ml tap water with a basic pH of about 7 gave blue on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep blue.

Jar 2. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% acid/white vinegar to lower the pH to about 5 gave lavender-purple on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep violet

Jar 3. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% alkali/ammonia to raise the pH to about 9 produced no colour change on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep green at first (but turning to brown after three days).

Next steps:

1. to see if any dyes remain in the plant materials after solar soaking

2. to see if a mix of dye liquids from the three jars would dye silk organza

So, remove the Red Cabbage and bundle it for eco printing as usual.

Water jar (left), acid jar (centre), alkali jar (right). The bundles had a soak in the sun in plastic bags for a while first – was busy with my grandson!

 

After steaming the bundles:

Very little difference in the blues, except for some lavender streaking in the (centre) acid bundle. Zero change for the silk in the ammonia bundle. (More pics below).

When I unbundled them, my grandson said: “OOOOO, Nana! That is so pretty and cool! “

So drain off the dye from each of the jars, dump half of all three dye liquids in one jar, stuff in some white silk organza and, voila, deep teal green. Leave on the sunny windowsill for a day.

 

Result of solar dyeing in the mixture from three jars for a day:

 

Then the rest of the green mix dye was simmered (180 degrees) on the stove in an aluminum pot with another piece of silk organza. A less bright dye result but still pretty and cool, as my grandson said…and so heat/temperature makes a difference to the colour result here.

BTW, very little crocking took place in the rinse stage.

 

Here are the four jar dye silk organza fragments, with the two steamed eco bundles on the right. The mottled blue on the left is from the water jar, right is from the vinegar jar…you can see rather more lavender streaks on the right indicating a greater concentration of acid.

Below are all the Red Cabbage blues-greens-purples of the last few dye sessions.

The palest blue, bottom left, was obtained by a second bundling of the Red Cabbage after the darker blue bundle, bottom right, had been printed. The greens and turquoises on the other fragments indicate the presence of the ammonia.

 

As for colour longevity: Trace Willans over at Soweon Earth kindly sent me a comforting note saying her Red Cabbage blues dyed with iron have not faded yet and it ihas been over a year. Thank you very much for that, Trace! My own silk twill pieces dyed blue last August are still vibrant. Some of my “Silk Roads” collection (previous posts) were also dyed with Red Cabbage and iron….wondering if tannins affect Red Cabbage…As India says, What If ….???

Next post: Yorkshire Leaves for the Chuppah