The Blackberry Invader or Humble Bramble?

Along the narrow path, brambles had completely networked, crisscrossing in every direction, successfully blocking any entry through the path. The path barely identifiable. The first task was to open up this network and negotiate a compromise. Entering into a conversation, the boundaries between myself and their persistent invasion, became a much more civilised affair. Tackled with a pair of secateurs, (not a noisy, smelly, petrol strimmer, as indiscriminately tried and miserably failed in the past)and a resolution to not try to eradicate but to utilise the resource. What could I create from it?

Years previously I had made a successful yarn from the inner core of nettles by a process of drying, crushing stripping and so on. Alice Fox, whilst documenting her plot 105, has successfully been making cordage from bramble so this will be a possible experiment but first was to explore whether it yielded a dye successfully.

Natural bramble dye, from the leaves, stems and flowers no berries…yet, gave a lovely surprise…. Responding to different mordants and pH. Black ’berries’ as such offer a fugitive dye they are not lightfast, a stain more than offering a pigment. However, make interesting dyes and inks when you create a dialogue with the environment and something I am experimenting with in alternative processes for journalling this research. Tests will need to be done to assume whether this dyebath is lightfast but it is looking promising to use the resource within the colour scheme and definitely for this second module: sampling and testing. Trying not to repeat subjects, like Natural dyeing that can be readily obtained now through this World wide Web/digital library, I have wondered which way my practice is to go with regards to teaching. How to make a blackberry dyebath seems so easily learnt compared to when I started out over 15 years ago. The thoughtful musings of other journal writers such as Sarah Swett pondered the same it seems and came to a compromise that worked for them.

In order to make the switch from wide fashion cloth to narrow braids that can be interwoven and left outside to continue the narrative with the environment, the thickness of my yarns do need to be considered.

This year the aim of The Textile Farm, me, is to be self sufficient with the resources I use in my ’making’. With the exception of the art paper, a khadi rag paper, that has happened. Although I have made paper before,I think I succumbed to time limitations. Incidentally bramble and nettles and lots of resources I do use lend themselves so well to paper making.

Natural Dialogues.

Entering an unfamiliar place and striking up a conversation is always a challenge, but what if it’s a place you feel you know and a conversation you would love to have. I have suddenly gone shy!

My conversation with the top of the land has always been how can I maintain the narrow pathway, keeping it open for personal use, honouring my fond historical memories of the owner of the farm, who I purchased the land from, driving their animals from the farm, situated by this piece of land, to the fields at the other end. Mother Nature quickly assumes the rights of this pathway should I not keep up this conversation.

Harvesting, rather than removing, pushing back the boundary of the overgrown path. Gently and lightly re establishing the footsteps. The copious amounts of vegetative material collected, with resources, tested, sampled and analysed.

A week later and only halfway along this top boundary, I began to realise a process of creative dialogue has been established.

Walking the boundaries

With the first module of my MA in….I have begun to give structure to my investigations and these reflections will form part of that process. The areas of the land that quite literarily ‘draw’ me to them are the wooded areas. Whilst very narrow areas they are situated on the periphery of the land…. The boundaries. This got me thinking about boundaries. What are they made up of? How many are there seen and unseen, visible or hidden?


I have set my own clear boundaries within the use of this land. To only farm using organic principles, to keep low stocked animals, grow crops resourcefully and to be mindful of structures I create being temporary and biodegradable. Being an artist, I continued working creating boundaries; with the materials and processes I use. Resourceful materials grown such as flax, plants for colour, foraged on the land like acorns, nettles and achillea or with animals I keep to provide fibres like mohair from my 3 beautiful angora goats. This led me onto to consider my own personal boundaries….not always so boundaried.

We create boundaries to mark ‘our’ land. This piece of land has a fence around it. Supposedly separating this piece from ‘other’ pieces. Yet within the land itself, boundaries are created, microcosms separated. How are they separated? Who or what separated them? Many boundaries are created by different criteria. Strayer et al(2003), Cadenesso et al (2003) and Kolasso (2014) suggest defining that criteria is necessary to consider an ‘investigation’ of the boundaries. Cadenesso stresses the importance of specifying the ‘boundary’ that is under investigation by considering three areas: the boundary itself but also the ‘patch’ that lies beyond and the ‘flow’ between them. This does make sense as it isn’t always clear where the demarcation is, it’s not always clear, there are, as we know, grey or in this case ‘green’ areas. How does one affect the other? Cadenesso also suggests that there is a hierarchal structure within these areas. The type of flow between the two is affected by the materials, the energy, organisms and the information transferred for example. Both the boundary and the patch have there own unique architecture and composition. What makes them different?

Nature creates boundaries of her own.

Passionate about nature and the impact as humans we have on the environment: What boundaries should be in place to safeguard this relationship? How does nature create her own boundaries?

There’s a lot to think about.

References.

Cadenesso M.L et al. (2003) A framework for the theory of ecological boundaries