Monday, October 18, 2010

cheering color

One of the few things still blooming in the garden are the marigolds, which I do love.  Something about their peculiar scent, but also the color.  I am not a yellow person per se, though all of my preferred colors are yellow-based and yellow is the first toner color to run out on my printer...

But this morning I began ruthlessly harvesting all the bright yellow blooms as I am going to try natural dyeing once again.  I have been using a few more dye processes in my weaving lately, and had thought it would be nice to use natural dyes from my land rather than acid dyes from a bottle.  What tipped the scales for me was Dominique Cardon's lecture last week at the Textile Society of America conference.  Her talk was titled Natural Dyes: Our Global Heritage of Colors (she gave a site seminar and a natural dye workshop as well, neither of which I was able to attend) and she spoke compellingly of the role of natural dyes both as traditional pollutants and as a way to bring textiles in to a new greener industrial process.   Of course just because a dye is plant based, does not mean it is safe to ingest; the effluent from dyeing has long been a serious environmental problem, largely because of the metal salts used as mordants.  As industry looks toward reinvesting in the old technologies and finds mordants that are safer (alum, for one that I know about) the question also comes out about overuse of plant materials-- for example, brazilwood which is now very scarce.  The answer has been to example industrial processes involving agricultural products and lumber by products to find new dyestuffs that  are actually by products of other industries.  All fascinating.

So I have denuded the plants of their brilliant plumage -- they may yet bloom once more after this heavy deadheading -- and now am spreading the blossoms out to dry on a screen in the warm October sunshine.  I would much prefer to throw them in a pot and boil them up now -- I like this process as it is another form of cooking, after all -- but I have a heavy workload in the studio right now that can't be derailed by a new investigation.  So I hope that the yellow from dried blossoms will be as good as from fresh.

Monday, October 11, 2010

separating paths

I am going to talk today about something more personal than I usually like to do on this blog.  My husband and I have decided, after 30 years together, that it is time to part.  Outside the obvious pain and the mundane why's of it all, I was thinking today in more metaphoric terms to try to explain this dissolution.

I can't quite remember what year Ben found labyrinths.  He had been writing a large & scholarly book on sacred geometry wrapped around the geometry of the pavement in Michelangelo's Laurentian library, and in his thorough and polymathic way, Ben looked into every kind of geometry and sacred practice he could find until he walked into the idea of labyrinths.  What was meant to be a chapter wound its way around into a lifelong journey.  Ben began drawing and analyzing every imaginable kind of labyrinth, devising methods of generating them and writing extensively about the meanings inherent in the path one chooses to walk.  Each labyrinth of necessity offers a different approach to the center; one might take you spirally ever closer to the center while another might flirt back & forth, into the middle and back out, quadrant by quadrant, before delivering you home to the center.   All of it has been a profound practice of finding one's way, metaphorically and literally.  I have watched Ben literally travel this path over the years, becoming a leader of other walkers, a kind of mesmerizing shaman. Labyrinths have become the central practice to his teaching: his favorite thing is to take a studio full of architects to the beach and draw labyrinths in the sand.  People come to our cabin to pace their paths in a simple dirt circle in the back, following Ben on his shuffle labyrinth.  It has been lovely to watch, but a practice I have remained on the outside of.

(from Ben Nicholson's series of hundreds of labyrinth study drawings, colored pencil on vellum)

Meanwhile my own path has remained that of the shuttle: back and forth, back & forth, looping at the selvedge, traveling a known path towards the unknown of the art I was making on the loom, the path itself simple, slow, clear, but the journey equally mystical.  I understand this journey, it keeps me calm and open and is such a perfect meditation that I have needed no other.  Because of this weaving process I can completely empathize with the journey that labyrinth people speak about, but I am not on that particular journey.  This has proven to be a separating stance.  I feel slow, simple, grounded while Ben has been a gloriously whirling dervish.  Now he is whirling away.
"Beset", 2010, wool with rayon, silk, metallic & cotton

Some couples do everything together.  Some couples, when they are both architects, practice together: they are together all day and together at night.  I don't know how they do this, although it is remarkable and some of our friends have lives like this. I don't want to indicate that something as large as the end of a marriage can be reduced to a simple story like I tell here.  It certainly is only tangentially to do with labyrinths.  I simply say this, we have discovered we are on separate paths, and I needed to write about it in the open.