Why not? 30 painting in 30 days. Here's the beginning. Trials and experimentation! 6 of 8 here...another few to finish tonight!
hybiscus, amaranth, logwood and iron dye
marigold, coneflower, logwood and iron dye
madder, alkanet, rose and iron dye
growing rhubarb by candlelight
rhubarb root, rose, madder, cone flower and iron dye
catalpa flowers, catalpa leaves, madder and iron dye.
Amaranth, marigold, cochineal and iron dye.
bee balm, coneflower, madder and iron dye.
black eye'd susan, cone flowers, logwood and iron dye
aster, salvia and dahlia dye.
dahlia, hibiscus and aster dye
hydrangea, privet berry, aronia and iron dye
aronia, privet berries, marigold and coneflower dye
lupine flower and leaf dye with black walnut and iron
japanese lilac pods, madder and black walnut dye.
This March marks the anniversary of a year-long pursuit of creating art with natural colors made from plant materials in collaboration with local gardeners. It's been an honor to be a recipient of a 2015 Minnesota State Arts Board Artists Initiative Grant. As I look through my journal, notes and collections of photographs, I see how my knowledge of plants, color and natural dyes has grown! I've also learned a little more about myself and my practice as an artist.
The year flew by so quickly! I found that from September on, I was running around the Twin Cities gathering material from many generous growers! I boiled like mad and as time was of the essence- I filled my freezer with frozen dye to use during winter.
Here's an ongoing recap of my year and the results of Ornaments of a Minnesota Growing Season!
It's officially the dark days of winter - but a great time to experiment more with mordants and the excessive amounts of amaranth I acquired early this fall. I was and am determined that this plant in all its abundance will produce a red. I try and try and try again.
The article in the Park Bugle has reached a fabulous group in St Paul, the St Anthony Park Gardener's Club and i have been invited to give a talk about natural dyes. Excited and a little anxious (here I get to meet the experts) I immediately set up a time to speak with Cynthia who is in charge of setting up guest speakers. I find out quickly that the talk will be scheduled for Fall 2016 (hurray!) but in the meantime I am connected with a group who loves to learn and create beautiful gardens in this historic neighborhood.
Cynthia invites me to her home that is located on the North end of St Paul next to the U of M campus and also sends me over to her friend and neighbor, Helen. This is a new neighborhood for me, that is a mix of mid-century homes many of which belong to professors at the U of M.
Cynthia's garden as at the end of the season, but I gather her salvia and Joe Pye Weed and Cynthia tells me about her yard, her home and what she likes about gardening. I am so excited to learn more from her next year. Helen's home is kitty corner across the street and this too, is at the end of it's season but I learn that Helen and her late husband Fred, were Art History faculty at my alma mater. And to make the world even a little smaller, Helen's area of expertise includes the history of dress, in early america's south- a time period when handmade dyes were used exclusively.
Helen told me that she was so happy that I was taking on this project....this day was incredibly rich and rewarding!
I've changed my route in search of gardeners and go in the opposite direction and find gardens still blooming and wild masses of plants. My neighbor, Sheri is a scientist at the U of M - her expertise in agronomy and plant genetics. You can tell by simply looking at her yard. She calls is messy. I find it wonderful. Sheri cultivates plants that interests her for her work and for her family, making sweet wines from her fruit trees and harvesting vegetables.
Sheri asks me about my art and I tell her about my interests in working with natural materials and what plants have been successful so far, and challenges, like the maggot infestation that occurred on my porch from donated acorns. Her tip- put the acorns in the freezer for a day to kill the larvae- this is what she does in her lab. She has a lot of valuable information to share! She points out many things, what I can take and what I cannot- as some plants she is using in her work. Rose hips are up for grabs- as she doesn't like the jelly you can make. Sheri introduces me to hibiscus. From the malvaceae family it is native to warm climates, and her plant is from a coworker that she planted in her front yard. With bright showy white flowers, the stalks and buds are a great contrast with dark shades of plums and purples. Hibiscus is also related to hollyhocks- which is on my list. The initial results are the most vibrant colors yet.
Like hollyhocks, some hibiscus has multiple pigments within the same plant and each plant can produce many different colors. Its difficult to pinpoint exactly which pigment will form a bond with the fibers in the paper- there is a chemical reaction or bond that needs to be further investigated- hopefully next summer as it seems i am running out of time as winter approaches.
There is a garden I drive by daily in Minneapolis that I love because it's walls can hardly contain it. Giant stalks of Amaranth tower over the sidewalk and busy road and Charlotte is happy to share her knowledge and materials. She called me after I dropped a card and told me about her garden. She often shares her flowers with anyone who asks, providing plants and blooms for weddings and now me and my project. Charlotte is a 'rock-hound'. She and her husband travel the US looking for geodes and agates and I believe her garden is a love for being outside and exploring. Her yard is also littered with rocks, potted plants she propagates in her greenhouse. Its a magical place where paths quickly dissolve into masses of greenery, sculpture and nature along a very busy thoroughfare.
We still haven't had a hard frost (although I think it's imminent) and Charlotte said 'it was my lucky day' I could come and 'take it all' although I do not think it's possible...but i try!
Charlotte helps me will the back of my car and talk about dye gardens. Her idea, a great one is to collaborate with the Textile Center and create a dye garden on site 'killing two birds'. What a great project for next summer.
My favorite discovery- dahlias. Meaty, bright and the best color yet. Amaranth- so much to use. After a little reading, i find that amaranth is a grain you can eat, a fiber to make paper with and...with this much- it must create good color. I think I make several dye batches, freeze some and dry out the rest of the stalks to use later.
artist, exploring abstract imagery through texture and multiple mediums.