Thursday, April 12, 2012

Celebration the Earth through 'Harvesting Color'

Some gardeners harvest food, others harvest flowers. Some harvest honey, or worm castings, and those with hens harvest fresh eggs. Have you ever considered the possibility of 'harvesting color'?

Rebecca Burgess of San Geronimo teaches the lost art of Natural Dyes, utilizing native flora to create beautiful natural shades of color to dye farm fresh wool, fabric, and homespun garments. From her new book, 'Harvesting Color,' she writes,

"Making and using your own natural dyes can reduce your impact on the environment (textile production as a whole is the fifth largest contributor to CO2 in the US), and has the added side benefit of some very pleasant time spent outdoors as you search for, gather, and/or tend the plants that yield nonsynthetic color."

I recently took a workshop with Rebecca at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma County and was amazed to discover interdisciplinary essence of this lost craft and I was mesmerized by the science and wonder of harvesting color from plant species I know well.

I left the workshop, with great examples of natural color on an array of different fabrics including wool, cotton and silk. We harvested color from Coyote Brush (soft yellow), Coriopsis (vibrant orange), Logwood (dark purple) and Oak Gall (silver-gray). Feeling inspired, I crafted curriculum to bring this earth honoring technique to the students of the FYCC in honor of Earth Day.

Yesterday we began exploring the question, "Where does color come from?..."

We explored the idea of 'harvesting color,' by going into the garden and picking some of our favorite seasonal leaves and petals; Ashley chose nasturium leaves and Gabriel was drawn to the firey pink pineapple sage blossoms. Joseph and Jacob gathered the brightly colored violas and Lucero was excited to try ranunculous petals. Downstairs in our studio space, we experimented with technique that involves captures an impressionistic image of the season, by drawing the color out of the freshly picked plants.

On cotton squares we created beautiful patterns of natural color, using soda ash as the mortent.

These squares will be tied along a piece of twine and used as Earth prayer flags, which we will hang in the garden. The flags will celebrate the season and our collective ethic to stewarding ecological balance in our community!

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