Sunday, 28 January 2018

2018 Workshops and News

I could tell 2018 was going to be a busy year when it started off with a full class at Sturt Summer School. I had a great bunch of students, some of whom had never done any textile dyeing before, so I was really happy with the outcomes, and they were happy to learn all about printing with mordants.

Happy smiles all round! the Mordant Printing Class of 2018 at Sturt.
Since then I have been contacted by several Textile groups in various parts of Australia for some private workshops and I have finally (!) put some of my own workshops up on my website.

Organic indigo vat and resist printing and intro to shibori workshop
First cab off the rank will be an organic indigo and resist printing workshop  24th and 25th February - more information can be found here
Explore the local area, forage for dye plants that reflect the terrain
On 11 & 12 August a new workshop entitled "Local Colour & Dye" will combine foraging for plant materials and using scraps from the kitchen to create wonderful complex colours. Click here for more information.
Learn how to print with mordants to achieve a variety of colours and tones in
the one natural dyebath.
And lastly, the ever-popular Introduction to Mordant Printing workshop will take place on 8 & 9 September. More information here.

I will be overseas in the middle of the year undertaking two arts residencies - more about that exciting news closer to the time!

I hope you make 2018 a year to explore your creativity and connect with like-minded people who share your passion for textiles!
Best wishes

Friday, 12 January 2018

To Scour or not to Scour? A Galling question....

2018 was off to a good start as soon as I unloaded my van in preparation for the Sturt Summer School. I had a full class of students eager to learn the basics of natural dyeing and then to progress to mordant printing.

One of the most important aspects of all dyeing is the preparation of the cloth beforehand.  All too often we are in such a hurry, we misinterpret 'scouring' to mean "a quick rinse or wash in the washing machine".  Whilst any preparation has to be better than nothing on store-bought fabric, failure to take the time to ensure the fabric is free from grease, oils, dirt and sizing will result in patchy and uneven dyeing, leading to disappointment and waste of time and materials.

Below is a photo of already-whiter-than-white PFP (Prepared for Printing) linen tea-towels that I buy to print on with pigments. The water-based printing emulsion is mixed with concentrated fabric pigments which are screen-printed with a design. Once perfectly dry, the tea-towels are heat-set to bond the resin-based print-paste to the fabric.  It will only ever sit on the surface of the fabric, not inside the fibres as in dyeing.

However, in order to dye these tea-towels (in either natural or synthetic dyes) they must be scoured thoroughly first.  I figured not much would happen but at least I was doing a practical demonstration of the scouring process to the students, most of whom were beginners. 

Was I wrong!! The photo below shows the water that the 5 teatowels were scoured in - can you believe the colour of it - almost looks like a dye itself!!! After this photo was taken I started the process again and scoured the tea-towels a second time. The second lot of scouring water was paler than the first, but not entirely clean.  Given that each scouring should take around 2 hours, we rinsed them and went onto Galling the linen in a Gall Nut soak before we could mordant them the following day. This demonstration clearly shows that whilst the linen tea-towels may be PFP, they are not PFD (Prepared for Dyeing). This is an important distinction if you are buying fabric from a wholesaler to dye with.

Scouring water from the white linen tea-towels
Another important process in fibre preparation for immerse dyeing that is commonly omitted for cotton is the galling or tanning of the fabric or fibre before dyeing. This process literally 'tans' the cloth so that the mordant will attach more readily to the fibre, which in turn attracts the dye. I must admit that I have been a culprit in the past, but Joy Boutrup and Catharine Ellis converted me to galling  cotton when I attended a two week intensive course with them back in 2013. Galling can be done with a number of different plants but I prefer to use the Gall Nut method as it is fairly colourless.

I set up several experiments using store-bought tabby weave cotton fabric;  fabric that had been untreated and unwashed; fabric that had been unwashed, unscoured but mordanted in alum;  fabric that had been scoured and mordanted in alum; fabric that had been scoured and mordanted in Symplocos; and fabric that had been scoured, tanned in Gall Nut and then mordanted in Symplocos. We then dyed the pieces of fabric in a Weld extract dyebath for one hour and observed the differences between them once the samples had been washed, dried and ironed. 

The richest colour and most evenly dyed sample was, not surprisingly, the one that had been scoured, tanned and mordanted in Symplocos.  About one shade behind were the scoured and mordanted samples and the cloth that had been neither washed, scoured nor mordanted was the worst dyed sample of the lot. The differences were easily seen by eye, however did not really show up on camera, hence no photos.

In theory we should also have done a test that included a step with Turkey Red oil for the cotton, but in a 4-day workshop this was unfortunately one step too many!

In my next post I will show some examples of what the student's achieved in the four days, or if you are on Instagram I have posted a few of them @julierydertextiles.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Indigo reflections

I have been doing a lot of indigo dyeing now the weather has warmed up, and it has been really satisfying to wake up my three vats, warm them up and attend to their individual needs. These vats are all natural vats mostly using henna as the antioxidant, although one of the vats which I have had for a few years now, got a dose of over-ripe bananas last summer after my indigo workshop at Sturt Summer School.
This year I will be teaching Introduction to Natural Dyes and Mordant Printing, and there is only one place left, so if you are interested, go to the Sturt website and enrol!
Two weekends ago I ran an Indigo intensive Workshop from my home, where I am in the process of planning a purpose built studio. I wanted to test out how everything would work running classes from the downstairs space, and I had 8 eager students as my innaugural students.
Unfortunately our hot summery day disappeared and we had rain for most of the day but that didn't dampen our creativity or good humour! I ran through the process of making up an organic indigo henna vat from scratch (which then gave us the luxury of 4 vats to work from) and some beautiful pieces were made as you can see below.
One thing I stress to students is the attention paid to preparing the fabric before dyeing and also after dyeing in indigo. The finishing process is very crucial to ensure that the indigo is fixed inside the fibres and not just sitting on the outside, where it will quickly crock off. After rinsing in cold water several times after oxidation, and then neutralising in a vinegar rinse, it is important to then place the cotton fabric into very hot soapy water. As Joy Boutrup explained, this serves the dual purpose of getting rid of any excess indigo pigment on the surface of the fabric which has not been trapped inside the fibre, and at the same time swells the indigo molecule that is inside the fibre, ensuring that it is now trapped and cannot escape. In a recent Instagram post Aboubakar Fofana also stresses the importance of correct finishing of the indigo dyed fabric.
I'm off on a short holiday to Singapore and will post something on the textiles while I am there.
Cheers for now!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Mordant printing frenzy!

I really enjoy teaching workshops on natural dyeing because I get such a buzz from inspiring people to look at nature in a different way, to learn more about the plants they use and exploring the many and varied ways to utilise natural colour for our enjoyment. However, when I am teaching I rarely get time to explore new techniques myself.  So it was with great anticipation that my good friend, Sylvia Riley from Sydney, came up to Canberra for a long weekend so that we could have a print-fest at Megalo! Having her there enabled me to print the full width of fabrics on my textile screens - around 140cm wide.
Squeegee passing with my print-pal, Sylvia, at Megalo
Megalo is such a great place to print because it has a full-width 8m table 👏 We both managed to get metres of fabric printed, although we were exhausted at the end of it.  My meterage is to be used for one-off naturally dyed and stitched scarves for the upcoming Open Studio Day.
Different mordants printed onto cotton
The only trouble with mordant printing is that when they dry, they are almost invisible, such as the alum above.  The slightly stained part of the design is a very weak iron and alum mix. All the mordants are printed and aged before dyeing.
Process from print to dyed fabric using a range of mordants.
The first dyebath I put this mordant-printed scarf length into was Acacia catechu, or Cutch. This gave me a lovely range of browns and tans, however I felt the scarf was a little 'dull' so once I washed and ironed it, I over-printed with some alum and another iron mix.
Adding more detail to the scarf with new mordants

Barely visible now but will show up in the next dyeing.

These small prints will add further highlights once I dye in my second dyebath, Rajentot.  I am waiting for this mordant to dry as we speak and will show the finished cloth in a few days time.
By the way, I am teaching an intermediate class on repeat printing at Megalo for the next two Saturdays, more details click here.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Over to the Dark Side....

Wow, I have no idea where July and August went but we are almost into September and I thought I had better do an update on my blog. A couple of weekends ago I ran an Introduction to Natural dyes and Printing with Mordants workshop in Canberra which was well attended, including several participants who have continued to come along to build up their knowledge and skills of natural dyes. It was especially lovely that Pirjo came all the way from Darwin and braved the Canberra winter, lucky it wasn't the weekend just gone because we had both hail and snow here on Sunday.

Making the mordant mixtures for printing
The lovely part about running the workshops is that we have a large kitchen with an open fire blazing away, so we can relax and eat yummy lunches and chat about our natural dye experiences. These conversations always seem to come back to the same gentle admonishments of why I am not on Facebook/Instagram etc etc etc..... order to keep Belinda, Jess and Ellen quiet....I now have an Instagram account : #julierydertextiles. And to be perfectly honest, I am enjoying connecting with other people, although because I am new to Instagram I am still learning Insta-etiquette. As Ellen commented, I have now crossed over to the Dark Side! So I am determined to show them I am not the luddite they think I am! Actually its more about finding the time to upkeep, but please connect with me on Instagram if you can.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Australians "love" their beaches!

Redhead Beach, NSW
I have been up in Newcastle for a couple of days to organise some professional photography of my work in Stitched Up at Timeless Textiles (see previous post). I am staying at Redhead which is about half an hour south of Newcastle itself, about 200 metres from this gorgeous beach. So of course I have been walking along the beachfront everyday, seeing what seaweeds there are to collect, and catching glimpses of whales heading north.  And just to put it into context for those of you in Canberra now....yesterday was about 24 degrees!!

The seaweeds collected from the tideline
It has been my idea of heaven just slowly wandering up the beach, eyes peeled for small pieces of seaweed that have been thrown up by the high tide. Most of what you find on the beach is predominantly Ecklonia sp., so pickings were few and far between along the 5kms I walked.  Luckily I took a plastic bag with me though......

What I found on 'pristine' Redhead Beach
I was shocked to find that rubbish outnumbered seaweeds on the beach, and I was glad for the plastic bag I took along with me to capture it all.  Whilst I was walking along I would estimate there were about 50 other people wandering backwards and forwards with their partners/friends/dogs/ipods.  Not one of them bent down to pick up the obvious rubbish off their beach. So it amazes me that people have the gall to say how much they love living by the beach and what it means to them but they don't bother caring for it.  Here's what's inside the plastic bag.....
A full bag of plastics and rubber picked up from the shore
What you can't see in this photo is the metres and metres of fishing line that littered the shore. Not too far from a man fishing from the beach......I was also shocked that the most prolific plastic item, apart from plastic bags and cigarette wrappers, was Chuppa Chup sticks....I mean seriously over a dozen of them, along with quite a few plastic straws.

Apart from dismay at how nobody else seemed to care about picking up rubbish, it also started me thinking about how items end up on shore and applying this thought to seaweed, shells and other natural objects.  If plastics can be washed up miles from where they enter the sea, and we know they do not originate from the ocean, then do the seaweeds I find on the beach originate from that area, or have they too been in circulation from another beach until they are washed up?  When I collect my seaweed I press it and label it with the date and location, as did Charles Morrison back in the 1800's. These details enable us to see what species were growing at a particular place in time.  Or do they? If you are not dredging the seaweed from a location, then how reliable is it to posit that what you find not the shore comes from that particular beach/body of water?? This and other things to mull over whilst I collect seaweed......and rubbish.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Stitched Up

Stitched Up opens tonight at The Lock Up in Newcastle and unfortunately I can't be there, however I will be going up to see the exhibition in a few weeks time to get some professional photography of my work, "Liberty". In the meantime, Anne Kempton has sent me some images of the work so that I can share it with you.  As mentioned in my previous post,  I think my work will be very confronting for some viewers, and this is probably exacerbated by it's position in the Lock Up venue - the leather padded cell......

Julie Ryder, Liberty, 2017. Photo: Anne Kempton
Yes, it seems a bit grim, but the work is not about deaths in custody, nor even that Mary Jane Wright, the girl I based my work on, hung herself.  In fact, it appears that none of the girls committed suicide  from reading the histories of the 193 girls that Jane Ison has documented here.  So why the noose?

When I was visiting Timeless Textiles for my Chromophilia exhibition there last year, I walked through The Lock Up one morning before it was open to the public in order to get a sense of the place with a view to producing  work for Stitched Up. Prior to this Anne Kempton and Wilma Simmons had organised for Jane Ison to talk to artists involved in the project about her research on the inmates of the Newcastle Industrial School (NIS) and together we walked up to the old site and discussed how it would have been in the late 1800's and how daily life was for these girls. It was a really informative session, and Jane's passion for research and her plea that every girl deserved to be remembered struck a real chord with us. Particularly with Wilma, who made 193 dolls to represent every one of the 193 girls incarcerated in the school.   You can see images of Wilma's work in a newspaper article here.

Anne and Wilma have been passionate about organising this exhibition over the past couple of years and together have helped bring Jane's research to life.  They have also spent time researching the types of materials and clothing that were worn by the girls at the NIS, and also by the people in local community at the end of the 19th century.  They sent out swatches of fabrics and information to all the artists involved so that they could produce work that was authentic as possible.

So....back to the noose. The girl I chose to represent was Mary Jane Wright, and her story can be read online here. When I was alone in the Lock Up I had a very strong sense of the desperation and hopelessness that  must have been experienced by any inmate there. The small, cramped dark rooms with graffiti on the walls seemed to have absorbed the misery and sorrow from bygone days. I don't know what I had been thinking but I had an immediate vision of a noose - not as a device for death, but as a metaphor for 'hanging around, endless waiting to be released, a sense of foreboding and doom, as in "a noose hanging over one's head". And when I had that vision, I almost immediately realised that the noose would have to be made of human hair to symbolise the fact that many of the girls were incarcerated because of their femininity - locked up for their own good because they had no visible means of support or were living from hand to mouth through prostitution. The girls in the NIS often sewed clothing or mended clothes for the local community, and I had the idea of the hair noose ending with a hair-embroidered word, "Liberty", on an antique irish lace handkerchief. 

Detail of 'Liberty' hair embroidery on antique Irish lace handkerchief

Because Mary Jane was arraigned for her own protection, I imagined what she wanted most was freedom – Liberty – from the school, from her mother, and her mother’s devious boyfriend, and from her circumstances in life. Her family’s bad influence seemed like a noose around her neck, dragging her down, ensuring she stayed in limbo between one authority and another. The noose can symbolise intimidation, fear, condemnation and the suspension of time. The green ribbon that binds the plait of the red hair rope/noose is stitched in hair with the initials MJW and on the other side "saoirse" - Irish for freedom or liberty. The irish word is something familiar and personal and therefore attached to her body (hair)  whereas the work she was made to produce – sewing – is in English denoting the cultural and physical relocation Mary Jane underwent from Belfast to Australia.