Since I've been back in Falmouth, I have been trying my hand at bundle dyeing, experimenting with my basic knowledge of the process and materials collected from Pendennis Point. In my first trial a few weeks ago I laid out leaves, pine, earth and other organic matter onto one half of a sheet of linen.
Having read around the topic, I knew that flowers work particularly well in bundle dyes. As I was using materials like leaves, bark and pine, I was skeptical as to how well the pigments would transfer.
However, my main aim this term is to push the boundaries with my processes and find even more alternative methods for making, so at present immersing myself in process is as equally important as the finished result.
I found laying the materials down onto the linen surface to be therapeutic. I watched the natural elements build up in layers, like a reference to the woodland floor I collected them from. The making of a bundle is a carefully considered and 'curated' landscape in itself.
After placing natural materials onto the linen, I folded the sheet in half and rolled it into a thick bundle, tying it together with twine. Unfortunately, I had neglected to take into account that steaming a red twine wrapped bundle would cause the dye from the twine to bleed into the fabric. As soon as I started steaming the bundle, I knew I had made a rather large error...
Nevertheless, I allowed the bundle to steam and watched in frustration as the red dye transferred from the twine onto the linen. I noted that next time, I should be sure to use only 100% natural twine.
I let the bundle dry for a couple of days before unravelling it to see how the plants had transferred their pigments onto the linen. The trial ended up being unsuccessful regardless of my incorrect use of twine - the bundle had not been tied tight enough and thus water (via steaming) had been allowed to pool in the fabric, eradicating any chances of vibrant pigments forming.
So, I tried again.
I went out to Pendennis a second time to collect new materials and carried out another trial the following day, determined to find a solution to the problems I had encountered before.
I went to the haberdashery and bought some lightweight, natural cotton as an alternative to the linen I had used previously. I felt that the linen was too sturdy to take any colour via the steaming method. I also made the bundles with the aid of a tin can, rolling the fabric around the can and the leaves very tightly to be sure there were no pockets of air where the water could pool and dye could escape.
I steamed both bundles for two hours then let them sit and steep for a couple of days. After waiting (impatiently) I unwound them both to find more successful outcomes in comparison to my first attempt. The definition was still not as sharp as I would have liked, but there were definite areas of deep and pronounced natural colour that had been transferred to the fabric.
I hung the sheets out to dry and will be using small, delicate details of interest from these in some framed works alongside existing frottage vocabulary. After my trip to Berlin next week I will be attempting some camera-less photography that I plan to feed into the finished works, too.
I explained to Virginia in my tutorial this week that these different methods of making I am exploring; frottage, natural dying and camera-less photography, are similar to 'techniques' in typical art-making approaches.
For instance in drawing - pointillism, cross-hatching and continuous line are all methods of creating varying tone and form for a final 'image'. My methods of achieving tone, colour and form on a two-dimensional surface are not all that different. Instead, I am simply involved with finding ways to utilise the natural world in order to develop a creative vocabulary, as opposed to reaching for a paintbrush or pencil.
The works I plan to make in this Pendennis series will be much smaller than the work I handed in for assessment last term. I want to develop my skills in these new areas on a small scale, refining my knowledge in the processes, before becoming too ambitious with the finished work.
I can imagine fragments of different mediums, stitched together and framed up in panels, representative of small 'pieces' of maps that together make up a bigger landscape picture and an unorthodox topography of place.