Berea mud

Had a great weekend in Berea, KY conducting a mudcloth workshop for the Berea Arts Council. Great group of very talented women – and a lot of fun.

I hope they learned some things they can use in their fiber work. I KNOW I learned a lot from them as they tried different variations of natural dyes and soda ash and soy milk and heat. For some reason, I just can’t seem to try it all at home. Having participants who are willing to see what will turn out is so very wonderful. It surely advances the sum of knowledge.

One of the big points on the learning curve for me was that if mud suspected of being high in metal content is to be used and heated in the microwave, be sure to let it cool down in between heat sessions – and keep an eye on it. After an unanticipated experience, we decided that Dorie was into slash and burn art, with the emphasis on ‘burn’!

We also had some great colors. Some came from Texas and points west (that coppery red!)  with Rena and Suzanne who were making a vacation of their travel to the workshop. Some came from local yards and ditches ( a great green!). And some came from a local potter’s stash of pigments and slips. It was great to see such a range of color.

Besides all sorts of mud thoughts, I came home with a dead branch from an American Smoketree. This was used extensively earlier in our country’s history for dyeing cloth. I’ve been on a hunt for this tree since coming back from Mali as it might be comparable to the natural dyes they use. Not sure if this is a native tree or cultivated one, nor do I know what part exactly should be used for the dye (the wood is a lovely yellow!), but I’m going to squeeze out all that I can from that branch. I’ve got some dry leaves, some twigs, some bark if I can get it off the branch, and the wood itself. Bound to be something in there somewhere…. just need some time to find it.

Berea hospitality, the tree branch and some reject hickory strips were all gifts from Gin – a wood carver and basket maker, and currently a paper maker and book binder par excellence.

Wish we lived closer!

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