Friday, August 27, 2004

Colorful Day in the Country: I Dyed!

What an interesting day. I drove over 60 miles, to the other side of Houston, to visit my friend Peggy's design studio. It's located in the converted loft of an old barn on her property and rigged up for her work as a fiber artist. She primarily does surface design, which means that she takes plain fabric and turns it into something spectacular. Two years ago she invited me to "play" in her studio and I dyed a piece of white muslin with yellow dye. We scrunched the fabric around a huge tube and the dye made swirls and ripples. It actually came out brownish with a faint earthy yellow background.

Peggy told me to come back and finish the piece by "over-dyeing" it, but somehow two years slipped away and I never got around to it. But now I want the fabric for a special project - creating lap labyrinths - so I off I went. The technique we used today was surface painting. After soaking the fabric in soda ash water for ten minutes, we wrung it out and laid it wet on Peggy's huge work table, which had plastic sheeting across the top of it. My fabric is at least a yard long and 60 inches wide, so it hung over the edges a little, but during the process we moved it around so everything got painted.

I really didn't understand the process. I'm a writer, not an artist, and I kept wondering what I could possibly paint that would look any good. I decided on red, purple and orange dye and Peggy showed me how to make it with "chemical water." We used a foam brush about two inches wide for each tub of dye and just had at it, painting in swoops and swirls and dabs and splatters, making sure that each color was balanced on the fabric. By the time we were done (Peggy had to make more red dye!) the whole piece of cloth was soaking wet and vividly colored, with dyes running together to form interesting new colors.

Peggy surprised me then by rolling up the yardage in the plastic like a sausage, then rolling it again into a tight pinwheel. She wrapped that up in more plastic, double bagged it in plastic shopping bags and told me to let it sit at home for two days before opening it. So on Sunday afternoon I get to find out what I made. I'll have to rinse it a lot, then wash it twice before the outcome is certain. I'm sure I'll like it, but I'm told that if I don't, to just come back and we'll try something else. Apparently you can "discharge" the dye from the fabric with the right technique and start again. It stimulates my creativity to learn new things. I certainly have renewed respect for Peggy and all artists doing surface design.

I'm still trying to finish "The Jewel in the Crown." I only have 50 or so pages to go. Then three more books in the series ... Oh, well, I love to read. I am doing a lot of writing these days, too. I have been very prolific since I took a creativity workshop from my friend and artistic collaborator Kay. That's another post.

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