Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red. Oklahoma is my home. Tinctoria is Latin, meaning to dye or color things; this is my work.

28 May 2010

Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, Part III

Isatis tinctoria, Woad,
4 weeks, 2010.

Part III: True Leaves

The cotyledons are the initial life support for a seedling. Once the true leaves and roots are formed, seedlings become self- supporting. True leaves are the first leaves emerging immediately after the cotyledons. The primary function of leaves is photosynthesis. Derived from two Greek words, meaning “light” and “putting together”, leaves increase the surface area available to the plant so that it can absorb and collect light. Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in most leaves and it is vital for photosynthesis, allowing the plant to absorb light and transforming it into food. Leaves make sugars and starches absorbed from carbon dioxide in the air and water, while the roots collect raw food nutrients and minerals from the soil. Leaves come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they assist in identifying plant species. 

If you look at the Helianthus Hopi Dye Sunflower and the Polygonum tinctorium at 4 weeks you can still see the cotyledons at the base of the seedling plants. The dye plants being grown for my Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project are healthy and beautiful. The weeks marked for each photo are from the seed plant date, 23 March 2010.

Dahlia mixed species, 6 weeks, 2010.

Alcea rosea, Hollyhock, nigra cultivar,
4 weeks, 2010.

Reseda luteola, Weld,
6 weeks, 2010.

Tagetes patula, French Marigold,
3 weeks, 2010.

Polygonum tinctorium, Japanese Indigo,
4 weeks, 2010.

Polygonum tinctorium,
Japanese Indigo,
7 weeks, 2010.

Hopi Dye Sunflower,
4 weeks, 2010.

Rubia tinctoria, Madder,
4 weeks, 2010.

Rubia tinctoria, Madder,
6 weeks, 2010.

13 May 2010

Washing Oklahoma Red Dirt

Oklahoma Red Dirt detail, 2010.

I first saw the process of extracting usable pigment from dirt for painting on cloth in a workshop with John Marshall at Earth’s Palette Natural Color Conference in 2009. John Marshall is king of pigment painting processes for textile artists. He is an extraordinary artist. Please visit his website where you will find a gallery of natural pigment works and extensive “how to” information about painting with pigments and soy milk.

The process of washing dirt is both literal and symbolic. Since the workshop one of my mantras has been “Wash Your Dirt”. The saying “Don’t hang out your dirty laundry” had already been rolling around in my head. I had been in a personal process of washing my own dirt. All of us need clearing out from time to time and this happened to be the year for me.

Needless to say, I take this process to heart and I finally experimented, washing good ‘ol Oklahoma Red Dirt! The instructions are pretty basic, although the first time I did it I poured off all the good pigment liquid. * I find a photo essay of the process helpful. 

The process of extracting pigments from soil has a long history. There are quarries in the Appalachian region of the United States, in France, and other countries that commercially extract and wash dirt to obtain the natural colorants. As I learn more about these histories I will this information.

*Note: Washing Oklahoma Red Dirt was originally posted 13 May and edited 15 May. There is nothing like waking up at 4 am the day before packing for a week long canoe trip and realizing that the instructions I posted for washing dirt was not specific about reserving the top 3/4 liquid during the washing process! Please see corrections, comments are always appreciated.

Basic “literal” dirt washing concept (adapted from John Marshall’s instructions):

1. Fill a 5 gallon plastic (preferably white because it is the most reflective) with your local dirt. This dirt may have debris of sorts which will be removed throughout the washing process.

Washing Dirt, step 1, 2010.

2. Add water, making a muddy mixture. John Marshall describes this step as a “muddy slurry”. Stir the mixture really well; it takes some muscle to get the momentum going. I found using a fat dowel stick to be a substantial stir stick.

Washing Dirt, step 2, 2010.

3. Let stand until the water stops swirling. Pour off the top 3/4 of this mixture and RESERVE IT.

Washing Dirt, step 3, 2010.

Sludge leftover after first "pour off", 2010.

First "pour off" up close, 2010.

Slurry residue detail, 2010.

4. Repeat this process, RESERVING THE TOP 3/4 LIQUID EACH TIME. I did it 5 times for this experiment but it will depend on your local dirt. The idea is to remove all the heavy stuff, like sand, which will settle to the bottom. Debris such as foreign objects, dried leaves, whatever you find when you start digging, will be removed in the process.

Washing Dirt, step 4, 2010.

Leftover after third "pour off", 2010.

5. I ended up using a strainer to catch the medium particles that were being stubborn. Each time the bucket is filled with water, stir it well, let it stop swirling and pour off the top 3/4 of liquid and RESERVE THE LIQUID.

Washing Dirt, step 5, 2010.

Swirling Dirt with Debris, 2010.

Leftover after Fourth "pour off", 2010.

Fourth "pour off" leftover,
detail, 2010.

6. Once the water appears relatively clear, let the mixture rest. During the resting period the remaining sediment will settle. The sediment on the bottom will be the extracted pigment. I placed some of this liquid in a glass jar so I could see the pigment settle.

Washing Dirt, step 6, 2010.

Washing Dirt, resting detail, 2010.

7. The mixture should rest overnight or about 24 hours.

8. Decanting is a common process when working with natural materials. The liquid is poured off and either reserved or discarded relative to the process of extraction: brewing liquors, making wine, extracting color from a natural material. There are times when the decanted liquid is the desired product, like the rose petal liquor I am making; rose petals and brandy are macerated together, after six weeks I will decant the brandy, discarding the rose petals. 
Washing dirt reserves and discards or decant the liquid during the final stage. The liquid will be gently extracted from the settled pigment and the liquid will be discarded. Then, the sediment or pigment will be left to dry.

Washing Dirt, step 8, 2010.

Washing Dirt, step 9, 2010.

9. Once thoroughly dry, peel away or break up the surface of the dried sediment. It will be flaky. Because I let my Oklahoma Red Dirt dry in a plastic bucket it peeled like paint off the bottom. When I use it for pigment painting I will grind it with a mortar and pestle.

Dry Oklahoma Red Dirt Pigment,
 step 9 detail, 2010.

09 May 2010

Colors of "Cuties"

Chicago Clementines, 2008.

Orange is synonymous with citrus fruits. In full hue Orange is loud. It reigns in our attention. Yet, more somber orange colors are sad and dull. Lighter values of Orange, although brilliant in hue, make lovely peaches and they are a very sweet color. The many earthy Orange colors, such as terra cotta, are associated with harvest and represent balanced, calm, stable environments.

Owen's Door, 2009.

Ludgate Farms, Ithaca, 2009.

Pine Bark Detail,
 Cemetery, Gloucester, MA, 2009.

Orange is the second longest wavelength in the light spectrum. Two primary colors, Red and Yellow are combined to make Orange, one of three secondary colors in the standard color wheel. The shape for Orange is the trapezoid; Red is a square, Yellow is a triangle, combined they form a trapezoid.

Energyscape #6959, 2009.

Orange is the color of the second chakra, the Sacral or Belly chakra, the center of the body that holds emotions. Activating the center, Orange sets the center into action. The belly chakra has layers of energy associated with stimulating emotions, impressions, sexuality and fertility. The Feng Shui element for Orange is fire.

Energyscape #1272, 2009.

In China vermilion, a bright red pigment, was produced by heating mercury and sulphur to form Mercuric sulphide. Although toxic to produce, natural cinnabar was even more expensive to obtain and less reliable as a color than vermilion (McCloud, p.36). Vermilion continued to be used throughout the Middle Ages but is no longer used in artist materials due to its toxicity. Arsenic trisulphide (yellow) is extremely poisonous but in ancient times these two compounds were combined, making Oranges hues.

Unidentified Mushroom, Cemetery, 
Gloucester, MA, 2009.

Traditional Orange pigments are various ochres and cadmiums. Orange-red can even be obtained by dyeing with Cortinarious species mushrooms (Rice, p.23). Other natural Orange colors are traditionally derived from Rubia tinctoria, madder root, and Thelesperma gracile, known as kota tea or Navajo tea, used by Native American natural dyers. Orange can also be achieved by the combination of other yellow and red natural dyes.

Lichens on Rock,
Buffalo River, Arkansas, 2009.

descriptive words for orange:
activity, radiant, proud, external, fun, whimsical, glowing, friendly, energizing, fruity, expansive, tangy, maximum, abundant, luscious, sexy, juicy, safety, hazardous, warning, playful.

National Design Museum,
NYC, 2009.

Staten Island Ferry, 2009.

orange inspirations:
oranges, pumpkins, apricots, tangerines, mandarins, clementines, annatto, terra cotta pots, bricks, firelight, sunsets, harvest, peaches, nectarines, coral, mangoes, persimmons, butternut squash, nasturtiums, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), autumn leaves, rust, iron, sweet potatoes, marigolds, poisonous Amanitaceae family mushrooms, Northern Oriole (Icterus galbula), marmalade, Halloween, lava.

Iris, Chalet Garden, 2009.

orange represents:
Orange is the sacred color of Buddhist religion for their “saffron robes”,  representing fire and the burning of the ego and personal desire. Orange also represents cultural traditions, self assurance, self respect, safety or hazard, road signs, construction, happiness, vitality, heat, life force, strength, clear mind, sociability, liveliness, motivation, passion, and it is good for learning environments.

Clevia Blooms, 2009.

Bibliography/Oklahoma Tinctoria Library Thing:
Bryan, Nonabah G., Young, Stella. Navajo Native Dyes: Their Preparation and Use. Dover, Mineola, 2002 (originally published 1978).
McCloud, Kevin. Kevin McCloud's Complete Book of Paint and Decorative Techniques. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996. 

Rice, Miriam. Mushrooms for Color. Mad River Press, Eureka, 1980.

Learn about Orioles: http://www.orioles.org/