It has been a while since I have posted here, but I assure you that I am staying busy, still learning, and have been developing some new projects and ways of working.
Last year, Schiffer Publishing Co. approached Joy and me about making the the recipes that are included in The Art and Science of Natural Dyes more accessible to the user. A we thought about how to accomplish this, I was reminded that in my household kitchen, I use the same recipes over and over again and used a recipe box and cards regularly. Maybe this would be a good idea for the dye kitchen as well.
This invitation to increase the usefulness of the recipes seemed like a perfect opportunity to share the dye color work that I had been developing for many months in the studio and has finally resulted in The Studio Formulas Set for The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: 84 Cards with Recipes and Color Swatches. It is scheduled to be released by the end of June.
In 2020 I posted about Dominique Cardon’s newly published Workbook, Antoine Janot’s Colours. This little book has been a great inspiration to me. It was surprising and enlightening to find that Janot’s full palette of 55 colors was made with only 4 dyes: indigo, madder, cochineal, and weld. That bit of information has mostly changed the way I am now thinking about dyeing and color.
When I first began using natural dyes I thought it was important to have/use/stock every dyestuff and dye extract that I could get my hands on; I didn’t want to miss any opportunity! The large number of dyes on the shelf always led to confusion when I got ready to dye. At some point, I finally did lightfast tests on all the dyes on my shelf , making fastness to light a criteria for selection. Ultimately, I ended up with a much smaller number of dyes I was willing to use. Those are the dyes that we include in The Art and Science of Natural Dyes.
The documentation in Janot’s workbook helped me to take color and color mixing to the next step, which was truly learning to master my dye colors.
The first thing that I felt I needed to do was learn to control the various shades of indigo. Janot used 8 different shades of blue, each with its own name. I had to learn how to consistently achieve different shades with my fermentation indigo vats. My goal was 6 different values. Dyeing consistent blues is like capturing a moment in time, as the vats change over their life span. My first fermentation vat was over 2 years old before it finally gave me the pale blue that I needed for some of the color mixes.
The 8 shades of indigo blue used by Janot
The 6 values of indigo blue chosen for use on the cards and subsequent color mixing
So, I began dyeing a series of predictable, repeatable color using indigo and a handful of other dyes using various depths of shade.
Various shades of yellow from weld
Various shades of indigo + a strong weld result in one set of green colors
The same shades of indigo with a weak yellow results in a different set of greens.
My lab notebooks are fabulous repositories of all of my testing (I am now on volume #10) but they are not always the most convenient place to go for a quick color reference. So, I began putting my color mixes and repeatable dye colors on cards – the kind that you can file in a box for easy reference. And then I began USING that reference. It was at my fingertips and ready to look at whenever needed
I realized that this was also a perfect opportunity to combine the recipes from The Art and Science of Natural Dyes with a set of color mix cards, that will give the dyer some basic color mixing information.
The dyes included in the color mix box are: indigo, cochineal madder, weld (and a little bit of the tannin dyes: pomegranate rind and cutch )
I have used my “box of colors” in teaching over the last months. It is rewarding to see students refer to the cards, make their own color choices, and their ability to achieve very similar results.
To follow soon: ideas of how to best use your own set of “Box of Cards” in your own studio dye practice.