And breathe….

with the Masters degree and exhibition over, overwhelmed may describe one of the feelings. Grateful for the interactions, conversations that the work facilitated.

What now? Keen to keep the momentum going, the work continues as does the land management. Nettles and bramble, are vivacious, avid encroaches of other species. Whilst their importance in the ecosystem can not be underestimated, so not to be eliminated, the task is to work with them and use them as crop to be harvested for creative resources. Paints, Inks, Prints and fibre from nettles this weekend…

It doesn’t have to be an energetic physical affair. Just plucking a few nettle stems at a time and processing. Each process leads to the next. Stripping the stems of leaves, they get added to water in a small saucepan, putting each addition in the pot as the stem is stripped. Whilst that pot simmers, the fibres get made ( videos, online tutorials to come!) Labelled and drying… the dye gets strained and reduced for ink…and pigments.

One of the ways to release fibre from the core of the nettle.

The difference between the dye and ink, reduction, reduction, reduction – gently.

Nettle Ink… for sale in shop

The beginning of the Textile Farm’s Travelling Creative Apothecary.

As the Masters degree research comes to a close, it feels like the beginning of an exciting journey, an essence of place has been captured in dyes, pigments and fibres from the land, here at The Textile Farm. Compact and transportable, the ability to examine other environments whilst always staying connected to this special place. It was extremely important during this research to keep it simple. To reduce the fast paced ’clutter’ of modern life. Using hands as a primary tool enabled an engagement with the materials that by searching on ’how to’ tutorials you dont get. I think there is a stage we completely skip: That of communication and learning from that dialogue with materials. The tools become over complicated, the process maybe confusing or drawn out possibly for commercial gain. We lose the essence of being creative, really being creatively resourceful, just as our ancestors had to be. It may even put us off from even trying to have a go. Everything has necessity to be done quickly and that opportunity for narrative is lost. The conversation with the environment could alter our perspective if only we engaged in that dialogue. A quick way is not always the best way, it could be a missed opportunity.

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.

A treasured bounty

Take home this ‘fluff’ however, small and tenderly yet once more bathe but this time add some magic of vegetable skins, flowers, seeds or pods; of bark or leaves and warm to colour it’s veins. Let nature colour your creativity and join me on this magical mystical tour!

simple to spin
simple to spin

Have you ever walked past a field where there are the tufts of fleece entwined baron on the fence. Almost cleansed by the rain and involuntarily ‘hanging’ out to dry! Much later, 38 kgs later and more to come I am hooked, obsessed by this ‘fluff’ It offers so much; transformation into the promise; Of fibre to clothe,keep us warm, to adorn and give way to so much creativity.

plant dyed wools
plant dyed wools

I have alway had this need to take a raw item and follow the processes to create. Wool or fibres in general are the ultimate travelling companion for this journey. However, my tentative walk began from a different lane. From the garden path. It was at these humble beginnings my connection was made. Colour. Natural colour. Colour that is not uniform and although nature can provide bold brash colours she is more renowned for her subtlety, of muted shades and very much a tonal creator.

Throughout the seasons she quietly sometimes loudly rocks our world with an orchestra of colour. Just when you feel you know her; she surprises. For me to be able to learn, tap into mother natures own larder, to explore her lessons in creativity it is a treasure trove. So to walk past that innocent ‘fluff’ I can no longer do without thinking of what it can become. Like Cinderella’s pumpkin to be transformed into magnificence by magic. Natural magic.

Take home this ‘fluff’ however, small and tenderly yet once more bathe but this time add some magic of vegetable skins, flowers, seeds or pods; of bark or leaves and warm to colour it’s veins. Let nature colour your creativity and join me on this magical mystical tour!

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