Friday, January 25, 2019

Do Old Dyes Die?

Our mild New England weather turned into a bully last weekend, threatening up to 18 inches of snow with some intervals of freezing rain, high winds, and temps in the single digits.

Meanwhile (skip to Paragraph 4 to get to the fiber art stuff) at our house I (snow shoveler #2) was nursing a pulled muscle, a final gift from a cold that would not leave, and Tom (snow shoveler #1) had just been diagnosed with pneumonia.

Monday morning dawned, and the mixture of snow and ice balls (nowhere near 18 inches but officially "a lot") was reasonably shoveled out, a little bit by me, a whole lot by our helpful son-in-law, and the tough stuff by a neighbor's friend with a plow.

The first snow of the season often becomes a snow-dye, a fun adventure but not unusual enough to write about, and I had doubts about this one--so dry it was almost like salt from the cold temps. Not worth spending a lot of time on but worth an experiment. My last dyeing sessions had been much earlier in 2018 for my Explorations project but stitching took all the studio time after April. I had a collection of already mixed dyes sitting on my cool basement floor that were mostly 9 to 13 months old and, even if refrigerated, these dyes were too old, no longer useful. "They should be discarded," the books would say. But I, who was feeling somewhat old and useless, wanted to prove that rule wrong.

I piled the grainy snow on the fabric, shook the bottles, and poured on the dyes. I held my breath as I rinsed them the next day. But the color did not completely wash away!

The first, which relied heavily on a sun yellow from April, was indeed pale. I had added a few spots of golden brown (Apr), nickel (Dec 2017), which showed up as that blue gray, and deep yellow (Jan 2018). This will be quite usable as a quiet background.

The second was a surprise: primarily from a deep yellow dye (undated but at least 6 months old), a little more deep yellow (Jan 2018), some nickel (Dec 2017), and charcoal gray (Jan 2018) that grayed things a bit, and finally some teal blue (Feb 2018), which I was sure was dead but obviously created a lovely green.

And then there is the exciting piece, mainly from a golden brown dye (Apr 2018) and a lot of nickel (Dec 2017) with ultraviolet (Dec 2017) thrown in as an afterthought--no way was that dye still working. But you can see the brown breaking down into golds and greens with hints of the ultraviolet here and there against a beautiful blue gray background.

Even the snow did its work, creating the characteristic little watery petal shapes. Probably the only one unhappy with this experiment are the Marie Kondos of the world because, unfortunately, I now have another reason not to throw something away.

Hope the winter (or summer) is treating you well!

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Friday, January 11, 2019


The branching sketch caught my eye as I paged through one of my journals--simple but full of meaning. Perfect for the time of many decisions I found myself in last year.

Purple for the untextured part and then all those golds moving through yellows and browns for the layers.

But funny thing about a simple branching: in one direction it is separation--a decision made, a parting, an individualizing. From the other it is a joining, a strengthening, connection, unity.

And are all those layers of gold building up around the purple shape? Or has that moving shape cut through those layers revealing what was hidden, buried beneath our view?

The name of this small piece (18 x 25") is Experience--a word that holds its own contradictions since it means both a single, often memorable event as well as a slow accumulation of knowledge and life events.

And, of course, you may have come up with an entirely different interpretation--the reason I love abstract work.

Linked with Off the Wall Fridays!