Well given that it's now May I really should report back on the fabulous experimental dye workshop at Harvest last month. The extremely lovely, supremely talented and incredibly generous Joanna Fowles was our dye master over the three workshop, and honestly we could not have been in better hands. Regular readers will know of my dark past in the textile arts, but while I'm an absolute sucker for anything indigo, dye is something I've not explored in any great depth ... besides of course some shocking attempts at bleach tie-dye in the early 90's and clearly we won't be discussing that.
On day one we quickly became acquainted with the 'alive and stinky' indigo vat (I likened it to sourdough) and were immediately intoxicated - dunking anything and everything into it, including garments, haberdashery, yarn and bed linen! Joanna showed us a number of resist techniques using pegs, clamps, thread and tubes, for use in the dye vat, as well as taking us through the process of mixing up and using reactive Procyon dyes for hand painting, immersion dyeing, and screen printing. We certainly got our moneys worth on the information front!
For years i've seen dyeing as some kind of weird science for chemically inclined artists alone. Imagine my surprise and amazement to find that while aspects of it at the highest level do involve a fair amount of scientific empathy it actually is really accessible to us mere mortals Weird how sometimes you set things up as being far more difficult in your mind than they are in reality... but there you go - demystification has to be one of the best and often unrecognised rewards of workshopping. I should also add that I love the experience of working within a group and discovering the background stories and hidden talents of other participants. The social aspect of working collectively and sharing our successes and failures over the three days enriched our understanding of both the technical and aesthetic possibilities of the processes and materials.
Obviously I became completely besotted by indigo and spent the first two days happily elbow deep in dye. I tried out some clamp resists which played to my love of geometric shapes and current fascination with brutalist concrete - and was really pleased with the results. In addition I found the magic 'ta-dah' moment of unveiling the dyed pieces just as satisfying as watching photos develop before your eyes in a dark room... its a special kind of alchemy I pretty sure I'll never get sick of.
After dabbling with the screen printing, and becoming increasingly frustrated by the faffing about involved, I decided crack at working directly onto the fabricwith the Procyon dyes in the dyeing (geddit) minutes of the workshop. BOOM! instant result. Turns out I'm not so much a printer after all and have discovered I'm much more comfortable with a paint brush and dye vat than a screen and squeegee. Maybe its the instant gratification, maybe its the directness and 'structured' freedom, but I think I've finally found my calling. BECK
If you're in Sydney snap up a seat at this weekends workshop with Jo here.
And if you want to have a crack at this in the comfort of your own homw you can buy one of Jo's Shibori scarf kits at the Harvest shop or online here