a natural dye process / part one

I am becoming increasingly aware of the artificiality of traditional art materials such as oil paint and strive towards a practice where most, if not all, of my process is informed and facilitated by materials from the natural world.

Today I finally got around to making some natural dyes from the materials I collected from Swanpool headland on my first research trip. I set out to make two separate dyes to start with whilst getting to grips with the new process - the first being a combination of fern and autumnal beech leaves that had fallen from the trees around the headland area.

The second pot of dye was composed of a mixture of ripe and unripe fatsia japonia seed heads that are scattered all over the headland.

I placed the natural materials in pans, which were then covered with double the amount of water, brought to the boil then left to simmer gently for an hour or so. I was careful to simmer not boil, and to keep the water level consistent so that I was extracting the pigments from the plants, not just cooking them.

After the hour was up, I left the liquid and materials in the pans to cool. Then, I strained the liquid from the leaves and seed heads, transferring the dye to jars for transporting to the studio.

After straining, I found that the leaves had released honeyed, reddish amber tones whilst the seed heads had left the water dyed a coppery brown. I will be soaking linen in these dyes overnight to intensify the colour, ready for an hour simmering in the dye pot to set the colour in the fabric. 

Natural dying is a process that will allow me to utilise elements of the world that I am making work in and about as a primary medium, breaking away from the artificiality of traditional art making materials, whilst also making a contextual link to my interest in a mapping of landscape.