Monday, July 31, 2006

The beauty of mud cloth

This is a picture of a Bogolanfini mud cloth that I saw at the Earthues studio. It was purchased in Mali, West Africa. The women create these pieces across months of time; they sit on the ground, perhaps a small child in their laps, while they paint strips of cloth with mud which comes from the Niger River, rich with iron. The cloth most often is initially soaked in the leaves from certain trees and the tannins react with the mud to create the black coloring. Negative space design is the unique feature created from this process. The designs are personal to each woman who creates them, a journal and a private one at that. Isn't this piece of cloth a work of art, rich in tribal heritage and design?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Gradations and Thai - the pictures

For whatever reason I could not get the pictures to download from the gradation day so here they are.... a view of the Lake Washington ship canal on my way to Ballard one morning, a table discussion of dye pot results and fibers in a pot of weld.


Today was our last day. We all arrived weary and bleary eyed, no way near as tired as Michele , Kathy and their crew.....they really have put an intense amount of energy into our week here and no words could possible express my awe and gratitude. Depth is my only thought, feeling and emotion. It was an intense week of working, sharing space and learning. Today was indigo....I was so delighted to have actually practiced the art for the first time and with success! We paired up so we could dip our gradation skeins from yesterday along with some overdying of our first day with hankies, scarves and ayate. I paired up with Katey, the resident dyer at a farm in Montana and Karen, a wonderful woman who is fortunate to live in Ballard with her husband,and be a dear friend of Earthues. We three had some great fun, as did the other pairs, dipping our fibers and oxidizing and rinsing to see such lovely changes with the indigo. Then the group, with a great amount of help from Michele, Kathy and Coby, labeled and tagged each of the skeins from each color gradation and each of us received a set of 17 wool sample skiens and 12 silk sample skeins for future reference. One moment of awe came as I was leaving and Coby was documenting some samples that she had dyed with the exhaust baths from yesterdays gradation dye pots. One was the most beautiful pale lilac was just the color I had been looking for all week and there it was, at the very end, quietly resting! An ahhh moment! I will spend at least my flight back East tomorrow, pouring over the yarns, silk scarves and hankies and ayate, recollecting and storing the information while it is still fresh. This has been a wonderful, enriching and bonding experience for each of us, both individully and as a family of dyers. This is what you come away with after a workshop with Earthues; the dyes are spectacular, they speak through the colors created and the commitment Earthues makes sets the sail to drive us all forward in color, creativity and success!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Gradations and Thai

By the time I got back to my room last night it was too late to make an entry. It has been a real whirlwind day and evening schedule. Thursday we all converged at Earthues by 9:45AM to finish Wednesday's project with our raw dyestuffs. We had dyed silk hankies, scarves and ayate and they needed to be rinsed, dried and pots cleaned, notes made for each dyepot; the ups and perhaps downs of what had taken place. We then presented the colored items to the table for review and discussion and then each of us took away our pieces, some of which will be over-dyed in indigo today. After lunch each of us paired up to work on gradation dyeing with both wool and silk yarn. This time we dyed with the natural extracts, rather than the raw matter, so the process took much less time. The extracts are just as pure and natural as the raw matter, the difference being all the preparation has been done by the grower, rather than the dyer. Therefore the dyer has the luxury of working with the same dyestuffs while at the same time eliminating a sometimes 24 hour process of first grinding, soaking blending, straining and extracting the matter prior to adding it to the dyepot. With the exception of the wood dye extracts, Earthues extracts are prepared into extracts by the growers in the villages and regions where the raw matter is grown. Michele has direct relationships with these farmers and pays close attention to insure nothing is added to the extracts.
After our dyepots were finished we all walked down Ballard to a wonderful Thai resturant, 12 of us took to the bar for happy hour where we drank exotic gin drinks and a feast of appetizers from Satay to something I can't pronounce but loved! This resturant also has a historical site within it. In the basement is an opium den, which of course is no longer used. All we could see was the stairway descending to the den which has a great big iron gate on it, stairs that were very worn, a wall of candle wax that had dripped from candles for years and then a dark turn out of sight. Some who have had the opportunity to tour the den say it was very dark with little cubbies and long benches. The Ballard district is steeped in history, it's in the streets of brick and the buildings, a most fitting place to teach and foster the ancient ways and workings of natural dyes; Earthues.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Roots, bugs, bark and blossoms

Today things have started to come together. It takes a few days to start to feel at home..I know the bus line to the studio, where to get a good meal, a morning cup of coffee...all that stuff. I got to the Ballard district early enough to take a walk up and down the's a great shopping district, with small shops full of funky, artsy, hip things. There are lots of bars, eateries, a place called Tractor that serves up live music. It reminded me of The Boston Tea Party back in the 60's in Boston. It had great tee shirts worthy of take home souveniers! Above is a photo of part of the Earthues shop. Class began at 10AM with 2 hours of teachings by Michele on raw dye stuffs such as cochineal bugs, madder root, osage bark, weld, quercitron bark and rooibos tea! Michele shared various silk, cotton and wool fabrics and yarns dyed with the different dyes while showing the effect mordants have on the fibers as well. Then we set about the project for the day which was to dye a controlled number of silk hankies, ayate (cotton mitts to use in the bath)and one long silk scarf. We had two mordant variables and 8 dye stuffs. We spent the afternoon working on that and when all the dye pots were exhausted of dye we left the fibers to set overnight and went out for a nice dinner at Lombardi's, just up the street. We reconvened again for a few hours of slides from Michele and Kathy's trip to Mali last August. They shared their tales travelling in that area of West Africa and the process that is used in creating Bogolanfini mud painting on cloth. This is an example of exceptional mudcloth painting.Weary but full of thoughts and visions of color on fibers I am signing off until tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

I arrived at my hotel at about 2:30 after a clockwork day of air travel and then wending through Seattle's streets in an airport shuttle van. I shared the ride with a very informative woman who was arriving home from FLA and she was very good about pointing out all the sights as we traveled. One of the most breathtaking sights is the new Seattle Public Library. It is walls of glass, juxtapostioned, angled and slanted...incredible piece of achitecture. I arrived at the Mediterranean Inn, in the Queen Ann neighborhood; a hillside area with shops, bistros, theaters, and all the necessities. I found a Safeway a block away to buy a few things for nibbles and drinks, got my internet set up in my room and found the roof deck! Wow! A 360 degree view of Seattle; from the Space Needle building to Mt Rainier(you can see it faintly in the distance in the picture) to Elliot Bay. I'll be back there for coffee in the morning! At 6PM I took the bus line from the hotel to the Ballard district for the evening opening at Earthues. They had a lovely spread of fantastic food and company planned for us. We are a group of 10, from Missouri to Montana, CA and NH! The Earthues studio is fantastic, so full of color and fabrics, artifacts from Michele's global journeys, reference books; just a sensory explosion! I am definitely in need of some sleep and yet it is only 9:20 PM here...the sounds of the city are quite prominent and so foreign for this country girl!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Seattle bound!

I leave Tuesday for a conference in Seattle at the Earthues studio. I am so fortunate, along with a number of others also representing Earthues in various parts of the globe, to be invited to a 4 day intensive under the tutelage of Michele Wipplinger on a wide range of topics regarding the dyes and techniques for using them. Stay tuned for entries and pictures starting in a couple of days.

Monday, July 17, 2006


The scramble to get hay in has begun! We had so much wet weather in May and June that 1st cut wasn't ready until the 4th of July and second cut is coming in now. Normally 1st cut in New Hampshire is Memorial Day, second cut is ready by the 4th of July. We did get 60 bales of first cut in the barn 2 weeks ago, a far cry from what we need but a start. So with the stretch of sunny days this week the farmers were baling and we were all running back and forth from field to barn! Yesterday Jack and I got 150 bales out of the field and into our barn in just about 3 great feat except it was HOT! We registered 90 degrees at 3PM with the dew point in the 70's...sticky yuk!. Our consolation was we knew many others doing the same that day and that after we loaded this round of hay we'd be 210 bales closer to being ready for the winter feeding! Getting the hay in is almost always's sunny(if it isn't you are picking up mulch hay!), it's a good workout, it's rewarding when it's done and with AC in the trucks the trips between field and barn are a refresher!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

That bottle lamb!

Here is Trinity with her Mom, Ashley last week...the lamb darn near as tall as the ewe now, and all from the miracles of milk replacer and the shepherd's attention! If we were to line her up against the rest of the lambs you could not tell she was the artificially raised lamb. Her strong point is she is at the ready for feed, hay, grain and also out to graze. You go girl!

Monday, July 03, 2006