Thursday, June 28, 2012

color and chemistry

I am still catching my breath and stopping my brain from spinning. I signed up for a workshop in natural dye techniques with Michel Garcia at Shakerag last week, and instead I found myself immersed in chemistry 101 and then some. Our brilliant teacher took on a group of 17 women, some of us self subscribed experts on the subject of natural dyes, and immediately turned our worlds upside down.

We started out with the indigo vat, which he in all of 30 minutes whipped up, using only indigo, fructose from boiled fruit peelings, and pickling lime. Then we moved on to resists using clay and arabic gum, and then onto mordant and discharge techniques using benign ingredients like iron, vinegar, alum, citric acid, and soda ash (no, no, not all mixed together...). 

And so the week progressed. With patience and determination, Mr. Garcia convinced most of us, that it is much better to know beforehand why something will or will not happen in the dye pot, rather than making every dye session an experiment and a guessing game. He taught us how to make clever color charts using a range of mordant solutions on one pieces of cloth, and then dipping them in different dye sources.

To be honest, it was a week of hard work. By day 5, when we finally were let loose to experiment on our own, almost all of us suffered from information overload and creative melt downs. But it was all worth it. I feel that my dye attempts from now on will be much more informed and deliberate - there will still be surprises (and maybe disappointments), but now I have the tools to figure out why and how to redeem it (should I choose to...).

Shakerag workshops are always magical (this was my third year), not only for the rigorous and wondrous teachings, but for the beauty of the place and the people who visit. Every person there, whether learning, teaching, or staffing, has something to share and contribute. This time I was lucky to meet up with many old friends (Marianna, Michelle, Ilsa, Judilee, Catherine, Christi, and Patricia) and make new ones (Lisa, Joy, Barbara, Linda, Meg, Cari, and Angela). I feel so lucky to have been there yet again.


  1. What a pleasure to read! I should look around here for something like that. Dying fabric is a little magical. Controlling the results is wizardry! Loved this post.

  2. It sounds like a very intense experience - your photos are wonderful. I am so intrigues by the idea of discharging with benign substances. -sus

  3. yes, I was lucky to be able to take a 3 day class with Michel last August in the UK and my head was certainly spinning my the end of it...:) but I learnt so much.

  4. Your beautiful photographs bring the
    workshop experience back into sharp focus! I have an indigo and henna vat going right now.


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