Natural dyes and airbrush

The seed has been planted! My recent trip to India had a purpose-a textile tour and to seek out and interact with textile artists there. Although I didn’t have a hands on experience, I met a few artisans and had the opportunity to see their exquisite works and engage in their warm hospitality. It’s so exciting to interact with people who have similar interests and goals! During the month after my return home, the idea about my new direction has been germinating.
While I love doing the work I’m doing now, which is airbrushing both on paper and on fabric, my new direction is to learn about natural dyes. This is a totally new experience for me; while some days I’m disappointed due to the pale colours and I’m so used to bright colours, I know this is a major learning curve for me. And that’s always a good thing!

I am not ready to give up my airbrush. It’s been about 17 years since I’ve been airbrushing on papier mache, paper, canvas and now fabric. I hung up my hat on silkscreen, due to health concerns (varsol, laqueur thinner), many years ago. Although many people view the airbrush as a tool for embellishing ladies nails or fashioning motorcycle helmets and tanks into something artistic, there are a few incredible airbrush artists out there, albeit, few and far between. In my view, it’s the creator who makes the difference in how the tool is used.

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For the time being, I will continue to use acrylic paint, both on paper and on fabric. However, it will be part of my process, to produce works that use both acrylic and natural dyes on fabric. The fabric that I’m currently painting on is called Eri silk. It’s considered “eco friendly” because these particular silkworms leave the cocoon before the silk is harvested. Eri silk is often used to make Saris. I love the texture of it and the way that it drapes. It’s a bit stretchy, which makes it a challenge to cut.

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I have made several batches of natural dyes using mostly kitchen scraps and some plants in my house. As it’s still very early spring here, the pickings are slim indeed! But I did have some minor success with red cabbage, avocado and onion skins, in one batch. I’ve also tried some eco-printing with coleus leaves and red shamrock from my indoor houseplants, with some brilliant, but short-lived results. Definitely learning as I go!

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