Thursday, April 14, 2016
Friday, May 04, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Books Are Here!
I've been helping a friend Alfie Salazar edit and publish a book of her stories and poems "Volando Como el Viento/Flying Like the Wind." I just thought it would be a shame for all of her writing to be lost and unappreciated. We both learned a lot through the five month process. I learned a lot of Spanish and she learned that making a dream reality can take as little as five months. She's got such a wonderful sense of humor and pursues each new challenge with a smile. Here is a photo of her at the first booksigning with the Salt Creek Mother's Club on June 8. Go see her blog at email@example.com
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
There is a list of stories, and my story is near the bottom. So, the moral of the story is, there are great contests out there with wonderful prizes. In the story, I said that I had never seen a proper picnic basket outside of my children's picture books. Now I have my very own, thanks to picnic-basket.com!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Colors of the Frontier
Poetry Scarves. Using such natural dyes as madder root (garnet red), chamiso (yellow-rabbitbrush), cochineal (burgandy-Mexican cactus bugs), cota (gold-Navaho tea), rust (brown-gold), and sunflowers (yellow-green), I combine color and poetry to create Wordful Wearables. I teach introductory dye workshops at schools, museums, and art galleries. This fiber art connects me to my ancestors. I imagine my great-great grandmother Gertrudis Vigil Bustos wandering the prairie near here harvesting Chamiso with her sisters.
Dora Hyder examines her indigo dyed silk scarf at El Pueblo History Museum dye workshop.
Choosing a Colorado Dye Palette
I have joined the ranks of "dye artists" and with the first days of spring, my thoughts have turned to the growing of dye plants in the garden. Although I’ve never before grown my own dye materials, evoking color from natural materials has become my passion and my art. Every dye artist attempts to test, create and control a palette in the same way that an artist chooses oils or watercolors to paint portraits or landscapes.
A dye artist should select a number of dyes of which she will be the master. I wish to choose a palette of colors and dyes used in the Americas. The textiles of the ancient Peruvians exhibited 192 colors (Hecht, 1989) across several centuries. Only hard work and experimentation can ever make my colors so diverse.
The major dyes of the Americas were cochineal for reds, pinks, burgundy, wild indigo for blues, wild madder for pale reds. Many, many plants provided strong to pale yellows, and browns were made with nut husks. The tropical Bixa orellana or annatto plant grows a fruit whose husks provided a vivid orange; annatto seeds give a fugitive orange and are still used to color food today. Amaranth, a grain grown by the Aztecs and others in the Central American basin, give a dusky red to purple color.
Woad gives a blue when used in a vat process. It grows wild in England where it was used up to modern times. Lady’s Bedstraw also migrated across the Atlantic with the colonists who used its roots as a red dye color. Lily of the valley is said to give a green color and dyers harvest it in the wetter eastern states. Here, it is a delicacy any gardener would salivate for but growing it in enough quantity to harvest for dye would be difficult. Even at that, most “greens” I’ve read about are actually yellow green.
Colors of Colorado
Arid Colorado, with projected water restrictions this year, doesn’t seem to be the place to grow many dyes. Although cactus requires little water, my neighborhood covenant will not allow the installation of the 8-foot high nopal cactus needed to grow cochineal. My neighbors, avid gardeners on all sides, would probably blanche if I attempted to grow the parasitic cochineal bugs for red dye. I will have to satisfy my dye palette with other stuffs.
If I can obtain some indigo, I will plant it, but just for academic interest since I’m not prepared for the difficult processing to transform the plant into dye. By the same token, although madder will grow in this climate, it is the three-year-old root and a 30-step dye process which yields the famous “Turkey Red” color. I’ll stick to imported cochineal for red, thanks.
I could grow dahlias (yellow to bronze gold), marigolds (bright yellow), beets (gold), or red chrysanthemum (red). The dark blue berries of the decorative holly bush which does grow at Colorado altitudes, but is not native, gives a fugitive grayish purple. Personally, I’d rather enjoy the flowers and eat the beets.
Although another yellow dye, weld, is considered a noxious weed in Colorado, I could plant it in the garden. But, why plant a weed which my husband will have to pick out of the grass when I have all the rabbitbrush my heart desires?
My Choices, My Colors
With this in mind, I’m eyeing the turned earth of my garden. I will plant some amaranth, cosmos, and echinacea (purple coneflowers) for reddish colors and purples. Despite the water issues, I may give lily of the valley a chance to impress me with its green. Even so, the echinacea may end up in the tea pot rather than the dye pot.
Most of my dyes will still be hand gathered from Colorado fields afar, rather than from my garden, I fear. And why not? Here in the southwest, the brightest yellows are produced by rabbitbrush. Some texts list this as a fugitive color but my yellows stick on silk and wool and cotton muslin through washing after washing. On the high plains, this abundant bush blooms in the fall and can be dried for future use but is much too large to plant in my small garden plot. I plan to harvest rabbitbrush like a madwoman (asking before I go onto private property, of course.)
Last spring, when a neighbor trimmed her aspen trees, I hauled the lot to my house. The aspen leaves were stripped and promptly immersed in the dye pot with silk, my chosen canvas. I loved the rich yellow-green-gold color and plan to harvest aspen again this year.
I will also harvest sunflowers. Although the leaves and stalks give a yellow-green, it is a very different color than the aspen. Last year I loaded my trunk with the prickly 6-foot stalks then promptly forgot about them. When I went shopping with a girlfriend, she just rolled her eyes when we attempted to stash her purchases in the trunk filled with drying sunflowers.
Elderberries are on my to-harvest list and are often touted as a purple dye. However, I’m more drawn to elderberries for their value in making wine than in making a fugitive purple. I’ll continue to dip cochineal dyed silk into indigo for a fast purple. Using two dyes instead of one may cost me more but on a cold Colorado evening before a roaring fireplace, nothing can take the place of elderberry wine.
Good luck with your dyes, whether you choose to garden or harvest. May your dye plants be fruitful and fast (as in a permanent color). I’m off! Here are some resources to help you out.
Growing a Dye Garden:
List of natural dyes:
A Dyer’s Garden: From Plant to Pot by Rita Buchanan (1995)
A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers by Rita Buchanan (1999)
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use by J.N. Liles
Vegetable Dyeing: 151 Color Recipes for Dyeing Yarns and Fabrics with Natural Materials by Alma Lesch, published by Watson-Guptill Pubs, NY, 1970.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I’m making midnight muffins while the rain gently falls outside. All the windows are open to channel the soft sounds and scents inside. The dark and loving drip of rain brings the writer to the fore. Fore……. (which means “Look out!” in golf talk).
Wait, how about candlelight and the gentle scritch- scratch of my favorite pen. Oh, no! Now, I’m suddenly transformed into
Found a candle but not a match in any cabinet, cupboard or drawer. Purse! That curvaceous cluster of life’s little necessities. Better than Bond. Yes!
Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Fore……..
20 minutes till muffins are done. They do smell good.
I’m here thinking of brother and sisters. The story of divergent paths, converging infrequently, make a pattern, not entirely unique and yet our own. The patterns we make are not separate from ourselves, yet we are together, cut of one cloth.
Ding! The muffins release me to sleep, deeply and sweetly in the cool of the night rain.
Poem from Journal Entry, August 2, 2004
A sure fix for a heart as devoted to stomach
As sister to brother
A whipping wrist
A dash of salt, a slim teaspoon of soda.
Outside, the dark and loving drip of blessed rain
Bears witness to the writer coming to the fore.
No! Wait! How about candlelight with
The gentle scritch-scratch of my favorite pen
Found a candle but not a match
No match in cabinet, cupboard or drawer.
Ah, ha! Woman-Desperately-Seeking-Ambiance
She’s equipped with A Purse--
that curvaceous cluster of life’s little necessities.
Better than Bond.
Now, Where was I?
Deborah Martinez Martinez