I remember taking this picture when I came by to visit last month – it was a lunch date, before the “lock-down”, I came with the kids, we had grilled sardines and the boy’s spent most of their time chastising your new chickens! x Tex
‘Playing with Nature’s Colours’ : my course title for workshops in natural dyeing with plants, (leaves, flowers, roots and fruit), rust, (not only from iron/steel but other metalic oxidations as well) and eco-printing, (applying plants to textiles and paper to alter colour)
[A week-long residential course at a restored chateau in SW France – This course will appeal to textile lovers and gardeners alike. Participants will be patterning and colouring cloth and fibres using a range of natural techniques, creating bespoke samples and lengths. The course includes natural plant dyeing with different mordants, indigo dyeing with Japanese shibori resist, eco printing, rust dyeing, 15th-21st July 2020, see link below for more details]
Natural dyes are dyes or colourants derived from plants, invertebrates, or minerals. The majority of natural dyes are vegetable dyes from plant sources—roots, berries, bark, leaves, and wood—and other biological sources such as fungi and lichens.
Archaeologists have found evidence of textile dyeing dating back to the Neolithic period. In China, dyeing with plants, barks and insects has been traced back more than 5,000 years. The essential process of dyeing changed little over time. Typically, the dye material is put in a pot of water and then the textiles to be dyed are added to the pot, which is heated and stirred until the color is transferred. Many natural dyes require the use of chemicals called mordants to bind the dye to the textile fibres; tannin from oak galls, salt, natural alum, vinegar, and ammonia from stale urine were used by early dyers. Many mordants, and some dyes themselves, produce strong odors, and large-scale dyeworks were often isolated in their own districts.
Textile fibres may be dyed before spinning (“dyed in the wool”), but most textiles are “yarn-dyed” or “piece-dyed” after weaving.
Rust dyeing is a surface pattern method that adds depth to your fabrics and fibres. I use the technique mostly on cotton or silk fabrics also on wool although this can become a little brittle if rusted for too long. I also use cotton rag watercolour paper (for use in collage/bookmaking projects.) Natural fibres take the rust colours better than synthetic fibres. You can place or wrap rusty objects with wet fabric and develop rust patterns over time. However, vinegar and salt will speed up the rusting process, as it aids in the oxidation process. Rusting occurs normally due to oxidation, i.e. contact with the air. Rust dyeing with just water takes about a week and requires patience Whilst using vinegar and salt produces colour in less time usually twenty-four hours. Cloth and fibres must be washed thoroughly in detergent to remove the iron residue.
At its root, eco contact printing refers to the act of directly applying plants to textiles to alter colour, apply colour and create interesting designs. “ Natural dyeing” is a component, as everything used is natural, such as flowers, leaves, bark, bugs, roots etc. and the use of different mordants to obtain different colours from the plants is also involved. It is straightforwardly a method of bundling leaves and other plants in fabric, and steaming the bundle(s) to print their natural pigments onto the fabric. The bundles must be tightly wrapped and tied so the fabric is in direct contact with the vegetable matter, using a piece of dowel can aid this process. The bundles can be simply steamed dyed in a dye bath to give extra colour. Using an iron blanket as a mordant (or another mordant) between the leaves etc. and the cloth to be dyed can create extraordinary and vibrant designs on the cloth. Bundles are steamed for up to an hour and best left unwrapped for at least 24 hours so the colour has a chance to penetrate the cloth fully.
If you want more details about my course Contact Gertrude and friends, all the information on this and other courses as well as the chateau are to be found there.
A kimono style jacket that has references to Boro cloth, using Shibori patterned and Indigo dyed pieces created in previous indigo workshops.
This summer ‘Gertrude and Friends’, a Crafts retreat with residential facilities at a restored chateau in, Aquitaine SW France, have invited me to teach some courses. One of the three courses I will lead is ‘Magical blue and Gold‘ ; Indigo, shibori and rust dyeing. It will be a combination course week looking at three related techniques that at least have one major connection in that they are all historic natural dyeing processes. The Kimono jacket is one of the ideas for something that the students may make as a way of contextualising their indigo, shibori and rust samples and experiments. Such an item, in other words, is the ‘walk-away-with’ product.
The Japanese term Boro can be roughly translated as ‘tattered’ and defines a genre of indigo dyed textiles ingeniously patched, pieced and mended throughout Japan from late C18 until the middle of the C20. It’s message of re-use and re-purposing aligns very much with what we, at Texatelier, are about.
Shibori “The inventive Art of Japanese shaped resist dyeing” Wada, Rice & Barton. The patterns which resist the dye when dipped in the dye vat are usually made on white cloth. The exquisite nature of the patterns are akin to an individual’s handwriting as no two hands can recreate the same pattern. Basic methods to create resist patterning include stitch, wrapping, clamping and knotting which can then be dyed in the natural indigo vat, after which they are untied or unstitched to reveal beautiful, intricate and inividual shibori resist patterns.
Sashiko is a form of decorative reinforcement stitching that started out of practical need during the Edo era. (The Edo period or Tokugawa period is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japan was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country’s 300 regional daimyō. [wikipedia])
Tattered or repaired
Derived from the Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired, boro refers to the practice of reworking and repairing textiles (often clothes or bedding) through piecing, patching and stitching, in order to extend their use. It is associated with the indigo-dyed hemp clothing traditional in Japan before the introduction of cotton. Worn areas of cloth are patched over or older garments cut up and joined, with running stitches or areas of sashiko (running stitches sewn through layers of fabric), used for reinforcement and to quilt layers of cloth together. This historical spirit informs the contemporary trend for ‘distressed’ or repaired-looking clothes. [From V&A]
Thrift and creativity
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, boro garments might be handed down through many generations of impoverished rural families, their making an expression of mottainai – conveying a sense of regret concerning waste. This is an extreme example of patchwork’s association with thrift, but, as in other textile traditions, the joining of pre-existing materials to create a new fabric has generated a highly distinctive cultural product. Today, boro textiles, often futon covers, are regarded as works of art and a cultural record of homespun cloths, dyes and techniques. The most heavily patched side of a boro panel, prized for its spontaneous and abstract qualities today, is often the back or inside of the piece, as more care was taken to arrange fabrics on the side that would be seen. [From V&A]
An “arashi” (polewrapped) shibori patterned and indigo dyed Thai silk scarf overdyed with rust.
The two dye stuffs, indigo and rust, represent what I describe as the “Magical Blue and Gold” that can be achieved on cloth. Beautiful and individual scarves are another of the “walk away with” outcomes that students on my courses will be able to create.
If you want more details about this course Contact Gertrude and friends, all the information on this and other courses as well as the chateau are to be found there.
Many students in the past have asked if there will be residential TexAtelier courses so I can now announce that I am really excited to be teaming up with ‘Gertrude and Friends’ next Summer 2020 in the S.W. of France for four seven-day courses.
The venue is an exquisite luxuriously restored 18th century château with 15th century outbuildings set in organic farmland with beautiful accommodation for up to 8 students. There are sun terraces for relaxing, a yoga room in the orangery and a superb saltwater pool. There is a light and spacious purpose built studio where the courses will take place, and will be available for students to use from 9am until 10pm each day. The delicious homemade food provided will be regional and sourced from the local market and where possible organic and there will be trips out to the nearby gourmand night market and to a fabulous quirky brocante. This is your chance to fully recharge your batteries and create some amazing bespoke textile pieces and meet new people with a common passion for Textiles
The whole experience will immerse you into the regional life of beautiful Aquitaine a part of France renowned for it’s outstanding natural beauty, gourmet food and extraordinary bastides.
The Chateau is near Prayssas – France 47.
The courses I am teaching are entitled.
1. ‘Magical blue and Gold’ indigo, shibori and rust dyeing, you will be creating an individual beautiful Japanese kimono style jacket, samples and scarves. 23rd- 29th July 2020 (NB: I have written a contextual article in another post, ‘Indigo-Rust’)
3.’Playing with Nature’s Colours’ natural dyeing with plant colours and mordants and eco printing and rust on paper and cloth. You will create an individual dye recipe book, fabulous unique scarves, samples, gift cards, homemade books, bespoke gifts and fabric lengths. 15th-21st July 2020
Courses will be taught in English.
During the week you will be provided with course tuition, materials, accomodation, 3 meals a day (including a 3 course dinner with wine) use of salt water pool and yoga room.
Prices vary according to accommodation choices. See the “Gertrude” site for full details – link below.
For much more detailed information and to book and pay directly on-line you can visit the Gertrude & Friends website directly. We, here at Texatelier, will also take enquiries and reservations, please use the secure Contact link on the top menu.
3 full days and 2 half days in the atelier studio with your course tutor
6 nights accommodation
All materials, fabrics and equipment that are part of your course
2 half day visits to local attractions
All breakfasts, lunches, dinners – except one meal in a local restaurant at guest’s cost
Snacks and beverages
Complementary pick-ups and drop-offs at Port Sainte Marie or Agen train station, dependent on mutually arranged times
Flights, trains, taxis or any other transport to and from Gertrude and Friends
I am happy to announce that my recent UK tour of Living Colour on Cloth, went really well. All the participants in workshops achieved some stunning results using Eco Printing and shibori resist with Indigo. It is always so good to meet and work with new people and hear their stories too. I am planning to hold some more UK workshops in the Autumn, details to follow.
Three weekends of Eco Textile Workshops with Nikola Orpen M.A.
Sat & Sun 23/24 March 2019 Chapel in the Garden – Bridport
Sat & Sun 30/31 March 2019 Mettingham Village Hall – Suffolk
Sat & Sun 6/7 April 2019St. James Centre, Stonesfield (near Witney and Woodstock) and “Hillcrest”, Islip road, Bletchingdon, OX 53DP
Indigo and Shibori (Japanese resist)
Students will learn how to make up an ORGANIC INDIGO SUGAR VAT (no
nasty chemicals) and using Japanese shibori techniques will create
exquisite and unique samples on cloth.
Day two A day of Eco Printing using flowers and leaves. Students will learn how to make beautiful prints and patterns on cloth and paper by capturing colours directly from nature using contact printing and steam. There will also be an opportunity to purchase some ‘special’ cloth and plain silk scarves to dyes. Please bring an apron, rubber gloves, fabric scissors, notebook and pen and any special (not synthetic) yarns or cloth of a neutral colour that you may like to use. Refreshments are provided all day, please bring something for lunch to share.
It is not necessary to attend both days but will be more
fulfilling if you do. Both courses are suitable for all levels.
A reservation is necessary as courses tend to book up quickly.
For more information and to secure your place with a £20 deposit per
day please ** email me** Nikola
By public subscription, your subscriptions, I have completed my three months of voluntary service in Ghana.
Thanks to your generous support for my ‘Out to Africa’ and ‘FaceBook musical challenge’ appeals, much, much, much … has been accomplished. I want to share it here with you and let you all know what you have really contributed to, for it wasn’t ‘me’, it was for the hope and direct development of real people with real fear and loathings …. real need and, in the end: real gratitude, that I am asked to pass on.
I’m going to lay it out as a simple list for ease of speedy reading – I’ll follow up with some pictures and minuté in later blogs.
As an overarching instrument I created a named initiative under the ‘INCOME’ and ‘Procom’ projects of the Ghanian NGO TradeAid, namely: “Procom Organic Vegetable Initiative” (POVI)
My role and aims were to educate and assist local farmers into organic farming methods and transitions ; the main reasons, simply stated,
increase income, and thus abrogate poverty
desist in detrimental and polluting activities with over use of costly synthetic farming chemicals
In three months I have, (but not without assistance):
set up two small test farms
conducted more than 20 ‘Farmer Field-school’ trainings – reaching four separate communities, thereby touching up-to 100 farming families, possibly as many as 400-450 individuals by DIRECT INTERVENTION.Delivery of key components by practical demonstration:
Natural and ‘fast’ composting methodologies
large volume composting pit methods
crop-specific compost and soil adjustment
non-chemical integrated pest management and
natural liquid pesticide manufacture and application
design, overseeing and monitoring of 6 large scale, triple pit composting chambers for the manufacture of up-to 3.000 liters per chamber-set per season of mature compost
manufacture of three free-standing compost ‘cubes’
membership and contribution to CAOF, an upper-east region organic farming coalition
production and sharing of more than 25 self-penned locally-aimed illustrated training documents, with the commencement of some translated into local dialect and language
outreach and community liaison
4 detailed training films
all work photographically and film recorded and shared
creation of ‘dropboxes’ and web-sites and facebook pages
POVI farmers are: Anti Agri-Chem, Anti poison and Pollution, we are: ‘Forward and Towards Organacism’
Towards a cleaner, healthier, more valuable, non-polluting cropping methodology
Towards greater soil health, fertility and productivity
Towards a new ‘ethical’, sustainable farming practice
Towards a more fullfilling working practice for jobbing farmers
Towards greater and better quality yields for enhanced income, therefore: greater food security and decresed poverty for farming families.
Unlike some African countries Ghana does not have a particularly aggressive road-side sales culture. Then one meets the irresistible Melody whose charms had me smock-wearing in about 2 seconds, fully documented and the live-fed on FaceBook, to prove it.
I did look as good as she claimed in the traditional Ghanaian smock, but I didn’t buy. She was fine.
The real find of the day was in fact new friend Melody – She’s a real blast!
Another demonstration of 1 cubic meter of fast compost (30 days then ready for application)
I am encouraging these to be built everywhere as free-standing, readily available soil nutrition. The farmers are being taught to make them, and the take-up for the training is most frequently the women, who make them fast – 2 hours tops.
This is a ‘direct-action, lightening-strike’ intervention that has captured the imagination … compost can do that!
In some of the villages and farming communities that I am working with, we have constructed 6, three ‘tank’ , deep compost-pits from block work. Each chamber will hold upto 1,000L of finished compost – but compost that is a year in the making and maturing.
With the two types of compost generation we will be able to sustain huge annual land coverage and soil-building.
Soil-regeneration by compost = Greater fertility, Higher yields, Decreased plant disease, Enhanced water-retention, Erosion eradication and Pollution abrogation … Where’s the down-side?
It’s all very well to get farmers, who didn’t really know how in the first place, to make all-organic general compost from the ‘wastes’ of their harvests and land clearing …. but to to transfer the fine-tunings of NPK, (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium), took some very complex translation into Fra-Fra and, as such … one hell of a long afternoon!
Ad-lib dance to the Compost – in Novrongo – Upper east region – Ghana. October 2016.
The first field school training for local farmers in our attempt to lure them towards sustainable organic farming experimentation and away from costly dependency on chemical fertilizers.
Since I arrived in September the progress is that:
I have made five site visits in the field, supervised two composting station layouts and the initial construction of one, visited and observed/recorded our two demonstration Farm/Garden sites and started all the planning and educational materials for the now defined and ‘plotted’ : Procom Organic Vegetable Initiative (P.O.V.I.)
I have also visited old friends at the basket-makers co-operative and gotten dragged into building cobbed rocket-stove cookers in one nearby village.