Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rusting and experimenting with natural dyes at Wormfarm Institute

(Above:  Three infant garments dyed or rusted at Wormfarm Institute, an art residency program in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  The one on the left is slightly peachy pink and was exposed to a brew of rapini blossoms.  The one on the right is slightly yellow and was exposed to a brew of comfrey leaves.  The one in the middle was rusted.)

I've been living in the barn at Wormfarm Institute for over a week.  Thankfully, the weather improved from the very cold spell with overnight lows hitting thirty-seven degrees and the torrential downpour and fierce winds that plagued Memorial Day weekend.  In spite of the conditions, I have been working ... a lot!  There's a vintage garment buried in the first stage of the compost system and another in the hoop house's algae laden potted plant irrigation system.  I'll be pulling these up on Saturday ... just to see what has happened.  I've also got two lengths of old cotton fabric wrapped up in plastic ... rusting old nails, horseshoes, and assorted scrap metals ... which I'll also unwrap on Saturday.  It's hard to be patient.  In the meantime, I've been brewing up other plant life and rusting other garments.   

(Above:  A pile of naturally dyed and/or rusted vintage garment ... freshly ironed.)

Photographing the results is a bit tricky.  I'm in a barn, after all!  I was able to snap images of my "In Box" pieces finished earlier by setting up an extraordinarily strange setting using a section of the barn's floor ... that just happened to be where sunlight shone through a large, open window.  This wouldn't work for the garments.
(Above:  Naturally dyed and/or rusted vintage garments hanging on the clothesline.)

So ... what's a fiber artist to do on a farm?  Well ... use the clothesline!  These pieces aren't wet.  In fact I'd already neatly ironed and folded them.  (See photo above).  For the sake of sharing my progress, I simply hung them on the clotheline!

Of course, it was lots of fun trying to get a semi-decent picture!  The wind blows in both directions here in Wisconsin!  Still ... don't they look great with all that movement?

(Above:  Me with an armful of Rapini blossoms ... about to brew them up!)

Every weekday morning here at Wormfarm is the time to be either planting, cultivating, weeding, or harvesting.  I learned that "cultivating" is different from "weeding".  One cultivates using tools!  One weeds by squatting down and using one's hands!  One morning we were in the front hoop house.  A bunch of rapini (also known as broccoli rabe) had past its prime.  Stalks of blossoms had grown up and were up for grabs.  I grabbed ... all of them ... and cooked them up.  The results weren't great.  Yet, there's a subtle peachy tint to several of the garments ... including one of the little infant dresses pictured at the top of this blog post.)  Who would have guessed that green stems and pretty little yellow flowers would have this result?  I'm not sure I'm done with the garments dyed with this plant.  I might rust them too!

(Above:  The night gown with the heavy tatted trim was dyed in the rapini blossoms.)

I exposed three, large dinner napkins to rusty gears ... baked up in a cast iron pot that my mother gave me!  They look GREAT!

Some of these garments probably look "white" but none are.  I got a dishwater grey tone from one brew and a slight yellow from a potful of comfrey leaves.  What I do like about all these subtle colors is that the garments no longer look pristine.  They show their age, the hardships of life, the struggles of aging and the difficulties experienced by so many women.  The imperfect coloring suits these imperfect garments.  None were in excellent shape when I bought them at auction.  All of them have rips, holes, stains, and other problems ... making them excellent for these experiments and wonderful for future installations and other projects.  My aim is simply to experiment and build up a collection of these pieces.  A final "product" may not happen here at Wormfarm ... but the pieces created will figure into many ideas I have for the coming year.

Now ... in my last blog post I showed a photo that looked like a round, bumpy ball of fabric.  It was a vintage skirt into which I tied nearly 250 pebbles from the driveway.  I used old rusty picture framing wire brought from home.  I promised to show the results ..

... and here it is!  I'm very, very pleased with this skirt and will have to tie up my pebbles again on another garment!

Here are a few more photos from earlier this afternoon!

Check back on Sunday for new results from Wormfarm Institute!  I am linking this blog post to Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays", a site for sharing fiber artwork.  I'm doing this from the Reedsburg Public Library!


Julie said...

You have got some truly wonderful results with your rust dyeing. The cogs are dramatic and beautiful and the pebbles tied with wire have made a really fabulous pattern. Love it!

Sandy said...

The pebble tied skirt is brilliant!
I think your photos of the work on the washing line would be great blown up/manipulated, cropped, etc. and printed or even used as a textile and sewn with some of the antiques!
Sandy in the UK

Margaret said...

Wonderful work! I continue to marvel at what you think of doing/using for it. And you certainly look like you're having fun!

Pat .F in Winnipeg said...

Your results leave me in awe! My efforts have been discouraging, but you prove that it's worth pursuing. I like the idea of using dinner napkins, and I'm going to give it a try.
Pat f in Winnipeg

Maggi said...

That is one amazing washing line.