When I met Jane Flower (https://foliosandfibre.wordpress.com) at the Craft and Quilt Fair in May last year I thought her fabrics were exquisite. So much crisper and more intense than anything I had managed to produce on a piece of silk.
So when a fellow Designing Women member, Rae Poon, invited me to join a group of textile practitioners in a four day workshop with Jane down at Evedon Park Bush Retreat (http://www.evedonpark.com.au) in Burekup, WA, I jumped at the chance.
Nine of us met at Dome in Mandurah (because the toilets are reliable….) and proceeded in some kind of convoy to Burekup. That (the convoy) didn’t stop me being about an hour and a half behind everyone else in arriving. The absence of that vital bit of DNA that governs directional sense had me diverting for nearly a hundred kilometres on the way. On the bright side, I saw a lot of the new roadworks through to Collie and waved to a lot of road workers!
Anyway, once we’d settled into our accommodation (spacious and well-equipped two bedroom units) we established one as “cookhouse central” and throughout the workshop used the facilities there to prepare some very extravagant meals, leaving all the other, identical, facilities in each unit untouched. I hope the facility’s managers appreciated the pristine nature of the fully- equipped kitchens in all the other units! The environment of the Retreat is superb, on a lake, with water and other birds, fish, native trees, little skinks, etc, etc…..
The Retreat was ideally set up for us to make up dye pots….
Those managers/owners were fantastic. On hearing that we were there to learn techniques for transferring colour from plants to fabrics such as silk and wool, they went off and cut some olive branches for us to try. We got some beautiful greens from that experiment. When they learned that none of us had packed a much needed iron, they gave us exclusive use of the iron and an ironing board, from the Resort’s laundry, driven to us by the owner. Then, when we had a bit of a bottleneck in terms of the demands on the iron, the owners’ own home iron was delivered to us. What a sacrifice and soooo…. appreciated!!! On the last night (Friday) we descended on the Retreat’s cafe and over-dosed on local wine, gourmet pizzas ( including my personal favourite, the braised lamb) and a host of other delicacies!
Five days seems to me a long time to be away from home and the internet. It proved, however, to be a good period for learning some of Jane’s tips for bundling local flora into fabric and either steaming or boiling it up to get wonderful prints on our fabric.
We explored stamping with an iron based print paste; methods for reducing “shadow prints”; when you can boil up a “bundle” and when you can’t, based on the temperature that can be tolerated by different plants in a bath; and several other common situations that can spell either success or failure in eco-dyeing.
Jane then got us to take our various samples of eco-dyeing and printing and apply them to wool batts. Some of us used wool batts processed in Australia from the coloured wool of WA artist and WAFTA member Val Hornibrook. These were marvellously fine merino fibres which felted easily. Essentially , we were felting our dyed fabrics into these batts to produce art cloth which is wool felt with a face of textured eco-dyed wool or silk fabric. This was “slow art” at its best and most enjoyable. Admittedly , we were outside and the wind was pretty fresh, but the rain stayed away until the point on the very last day, Friday, when the tarps were finally tied onto Jane’s trailer.
The downpour after that was very well-timed and very welcome, as we were already ensconced in “cookhouse central” with sparkling wine and a huge piece of brie and home-made persimmon paste, all courtesy of Jane, who in fact should have been the recipient of OUR gifts rather than showering them on us!
What a wonderful week!! Jane is giving WAFTA a natural eco-dyeing workshop in September of this year which booked out soon after it was advertised.