Rebecca Burgess is a textile artist and educator who works with natural dyes. Her book Harvesting Color was just published. It offers an overview of wild and natural plants one can easily find across the US to use as dyes. Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco hosted her free lecture and workshop today. It opened up a lot of possiblities for future ideas in my own work.
|Rebecca Burgess stirring the dye vat.|
Rebecca gave us an overview of dyeing with common locally known plants, using coreopsis as a sample. She is currently growing coreopsis as well as Indigo on her own property in Marin. Here is a season's worth of dried coreopsis from farmer's market bouquets nearby.
The orange dye baths were a beauty in themselves. She encouraged us to bring a small fabric or yarn sample to try out the process.
It was crowded but somehow we all managed to slip in a sample.
|Amazing setting at Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco.|
I brought along a natural linen and couldn't believe how well it took the dye in just five minutes. Look at that orange!
Afterwards, we dipped our fabrics in either wood ash or lemon juice for a few seconds. Can it get more beautiful than this with all these galvanized buckets and bamboo sticks?
In addition to focusing on natural dyes and harvesting Rebecca has also created the Fibershed Project. She challenges participants to wear only clothing made from sources found within a 150 mile radius. This is where I see new ideas popping into my head about a future series:
The Fibershed project is inspired by the need to swing the pendulum of our production- and our consumption to a more balanced state, that supports the health of all humans and the greater ecological system of which we are apart; through the re-integration of organic fibers, natural dyes, and a regional base that supports local communities and economies.
In my community alone thousands upon thousands of pounds of wool are composted or thrown into the landfills each year. We have a 13% unemployment rate, all the while if you go to a store to buy a wool undershirt– the raw material is from New Zealand, and the production from China.
The Fibershed concept was coined in response to this extreme situation–with the inspiration that farming, milling, production and manufacturing could once again live in balance with the land we call home.
|Image by Paige Green|
I heard Rebecca mention mills and my ears perked up. In my latest research on my southern foreclosure quilt, I searched everywhere for mills. They exist, but they are dwindling rapidly. Even since the 2000's, the US are losing mills to other countries. I love the idea of bringing the mills back to produce our own products. Now how to share this idea in my artwork?