Category Archives: Eco printing and natural dyes

Harvesting and Ecoprinting by Moon Cycles

When I was an art major in college at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC, I lived in a small place on the Tar River near my family’ s farm. Driving home late one night after an evening class, I slowed at a little home to turn into our long dirt drive and noticed my neighbor in her garden.  She was silhouetted against a bright moon and was obviously at work picking pole beans. The next day I asked my parents why our neighbor was in her garden at 10:30 pm.  They said that she planted and harvested by the phases of the moon.  I was intrigued as no one’s garden compared to hers! She grew more in an half acre of land than anyone could and her corn grew to Iowa heights! We talked several times about her planting methods and I’ve never forgotten her or her garden.

Fast forward to the here and now and as we approach a total eclipse near our area on August 21,  I found my mind turning  back to my long ago neighbor harvesting from her garden. And I started thinking.

Ecoprinting on paper is something I have done since my college days. Ecoprinting on silk has been the past 5 years. But as I said in an article I wrote for the spring edition of “No Serial Number” magazine, my immersion into ecoprinting involved far more than the finished design! As incredible as the designs are, it is the “hard to explain” part of being one with Nature in her moments of giving me her bounty of design and color. I like to forage for the leaves. I like long hikes in back woods, hearing the birds, absorbing the colors. The artist in me has been involved with Nature since my teen years of solitary cross country skiing through birch forests in the Catskills and even earlier with years of horse ownership and trail rides. They are peaceful places for me.

Theresa Collecting plants

Collecting right now, as I practice it, has been more a case of going for a drive through the countryside or on a cool enough day (it IS summer here in the south!) to collect from my own farm.  But I started to wonder, just recently, what IF I harvested and processed by the phases of the moon?

I have collected enough to know that the day, the time and the maturity of the leaves and plants I collect influence my final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colors than from a week ago. I totally get that.

But what would happen if I thought about both harvesting and processing based on the ancient principles of the phases of the moon? I think it was the Mayans who had a comprehensive calendar for their crops.

 

 

What if I tried my idea for several months? Studies moon charts, kept notes on the results, collected my usual way from the same trees or plants and did a test study?  Tried to make sense of something that for our forefathers was as ingrained in them as breathing? I quote from a web page called “Planting by the Signs of the Moon”

Pliny the Elder did it, and so did Benjamin Franklin and your great grandma as well! They all planted gardens by the phases of the Moon, using a method practiced in rural communities for over two thousand years. It was so well established in the first century AD that it became part of the “natural history” that Pliny wrote about in his series of the same name. A method proven successful over that length of time deserves more than a label of folklore. It warrants a trial in our gardens too.

So I’m going to start this Monday during the total eclipse that will be seen at 92% in our area and 100% in places like South Carolina, Great Smokey Mountains, Oregon and elsewhere.  The small window of opportunity for me will be around 2:00 pm (EST)

 

I am curious to see if my free range chickens will think it’s time to roost, or if the brief twilight will have an effect on my other animals (ponies, alpaca) But what I do know is that I’ll later watch the eclipse on NASA’s station (since I don’t have proper eyewear) and concentrate on the experience while I collect my pecan, rose and maple leaves to test.

In the end, it is not as much about results. I am not a scientist. It’s about the experience.  My collecting is natural, my results sustainable and beautiful.  I  enjoy the time it takes to create each piece as much as the time I spend communing with Nature in her environment.  I have loved ones that have passed that I often talk to as I gaze up at the moon or stars (funny how it’s not during the day) and somehow I find the idea of an art form I know they would have loved, being practiced during the moon tides to be kind of appealing. So for me, it would be an additional experience added to a process I already enjoy. And what’s not to like?

Eco-print Workshops!

Eco-print Workshops with The Silk Thread

I found that at shows, people are fascinated by my ecoprinting. The infinite number of  leaf prints, especially sharp, crisp ones,  is the first area of fascination. The second is realizing  that Mother Nature can actually release such beautiful colors onto silk.  For many,  it is the knowledge that the entire process is a sustainable and renewable art form.  But universally, it is the image of collecting  leaves on a beautiful day, scattering them onto silk and, in the end, creating a beautiful, unique surprise from Nature that has the most appeal!

Theresa Collecting plants
Collecting leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So It did not take long for people to start asking if I would hold workshops in ecoprinting.   I condensed my process down to a one day workshop that  has made it easy for participants to leave with beautiful scarves created with their own hands!

 

Ecoprinting workshop

Everyone is Equal!

What I love about the Ecoprint workshops is that Everyone is Equal in experience, creativity  and artistic ability!   With painting workshops, even for beginners,  there is always that subtle competitiveness and insecurity. You can hear it in the conversations “Oh, I’m not really an artist,” or “Is this good?” or “I won’t trace, that’s cheating,” and the list goes on.  In Ecoprinting, the participants all learn to initially work the same way with the same methods, but in the end, it is Mother Nature who holds the reins!

I’m including some images from a few recent workshops. I am fortunate in that my mini-farm contains all the plant material we need, right outside the doors of the 2 art studios!  Although I work at my

The Silk Studio viewed from the garden

smaller silk studio, and often outside on the deck, it is the larger “Painting” studio where I hold the Ecoprint workshops. I can fit up to 6 (my max number of students) comfortably with my spread out techniques and best of all, we are out of any wind….you can imagine the frustration of laying plants onto a silk scarf on a windy day :-).

All  my workshops run from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. There is plenty of time to relax after the bundled silk is in the pots. This is when we all eat our bagged lunches, tour the silk studio, engage with the ponies, chickens  and assorted livestock on the mini-farm. On a gorgeous day, we sit under the trees and simply soak in the atmosphere while the silk processes in the steamers.

working in the Art studio

There is no doubt that the most exciting time is when we open the bundles of silk and see the results!

opening bundles

As you browse, you’ll see the faces say it best! Enjoy the closeups. Visit my workshop page to see what dates are available and contact me with any questions!

Until next time!-Theresa

Posing with their creations!
Happy with their results!
A delighted participant

 

close up results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First batch drying on the line
First time results!
First time results!
First time results!
Laying out the plants

The “No Serial Number” magazine story

It’s always fun to find yourself in an International magazine! And especially so when that magazine is the up and coming “Green” magazine, “No Serial Number” an “an eclectic lifestyle magazine about Eco-conscious and Heritage Craft, Design and Fashion.”    The purpose of the publication aligns itself beautifully with my ecoprinted collections and it is a joy to see this publication embrace all that is sustainable, renewable and beautiful!

Cover Photo No Serial Number

 

So what about my article? Well, I had the best time writing it and pulling together my images. 6 whole pages! But for a sneak preview  you can see a bit of it here!

Page 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Botanical or ecoprinting appeals to the simpler side of people-the surround sound of being in the woods, gathering plant matter and watching it come to as an art form is my passion. But many collectors simply enjoy the finished pieces. Whether for home or office, there is something peaceful and beautiful in knowing the ecoprinted art has given us a lasting piece of Nature’s designs and colors!

It was my pleasure to have “No Serial Number” echo my thoughts and feelings by publishing my work and photos!

page 4

Magical world of Faeries on ecoprint

Who is not entranced by the mystical world of faeries? Whether your first introduction was Tinkerbell or you’re  intrigued with the myriad of myths, legends and sightings of such fleeting “little people”, it is a fun world to enter!

Faeries ( or Fairies)were a favorite theme of my twin sister.  As children, we imagined them in the ancient maples that populated our farm in upstate New York. We would take what figurines we had and play among the stone walls and foundations of the huge barns. We invented names, places, personalities, and made “faerie houses” from all manner of rocks and twigs.

 

Detail of a woodland faerie

So I have enjoyed re-inventing our world of not just faeries but the birds that also populated our country playground. Chickadees, sparrows, finches and tiny house wrens all flocked to our suet feeders in the winter when the snows made life challenging for all!

bird on rose branch

My eco printed silk seemed to call to me to peek closer into the world of nature. As a painter, it was just an additional step to begin creating my hand painted designs among the imprinted silk. The challenge was to keep a soft hand to the silk and yet have control over the silk dyes-not always an easy thing to do! So laying out my plant matter to create designs with open spaces for my birds and faeries, I began to paint. And I am still creating versions of them both.  The possibilities are endless. Yes I could simply paint an entire Faerie world on a single canvas, populated with tiny birds, magical creatures and such. But the challenges of working with silk intrigued me. My hand painted figures dance with the movement of the silk-something that cannot be achieved on canvas.

Four Faeries in the roses

The birds continue to flock to my feeders even in the more temperate climate of North Carolina. And while I paint and design, I see tiny faeries everywhere-dancing on the dust motes, peeking out from behind the roses leaves and perhaps playing tricks on the free range chickens. Join me in this magical world of no worries, playful fun and enjoy the art!

 

Faeries and their little bird friend on Cotton dipped in indigo!

 

Wearing Nature’s Colors

There's nothing like silk!
There’s nothing like silk!

Truly-there is nothing like the look and feel of silk! Soft and luxurious or earthy and light, nothing compares to this all natural, sustainable fabric against the skin.

And nothing speaks to the soul as eloquently as wearing Mother Nature’s colors imprinted naturally onto silk fabrics. For me,  wearing creations that come from Nature and to experience both the natural colors the leaves give up during my process or the results of natural dye additions is the journey I enjoy most!

The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk

Let the look of my handcrafted garments tell their own story!

Custom made silk noil tunic
Custom made silk noil tunic
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.
Handcrafted silk noil dress imprinted with leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho dyed with cochineal
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil
Handcrafted poncho of silk noil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A stylish fit
A stylish fit
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.
Ecoprinted long silk scarf.

 

Indigo dyed Silk dress
Indigo dyed Silk dress

All Natural dyeing with plants

Somewhere back in Time, our ancestors figured out a number of amazing things. In the course of survival, it is understandable that clothes needed to be made and the progression from animal skins to fibers is a fascinating history. But then, someone decided that colors would enhance the fibers and a whole new journey began 🙂

I don’t think most people even think about  color except when looking at clothing on racks in a store. But recently I not only experimented myself but watched a friend Dede Styles, reach back into her Appalachian roots and demonstrate at the NC Mountain State Fair.

She used both iron and brass pots heated with the convenient propane heater. On one day she could not attend, a young couple took over with butternuts.

Dede Styles dying with Goldenrod9
Dede Styles dying with Goldenrod

 

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Her results were stunning reminders that all that is new is old 🙂 This is especially true when today’s thinking is “go natural” and words like “sustainable, renewable and recyclable” are bandied about as though it was a new concept.

Dede Styles dyeing wool
Dede Styles dyeing wool

My own efforts are similar yet different. I am all about dyeing silk rather than wool. A huge part of the enjoyment is collecting the plant matter to use in a dye pot. My husband happily joins me in this search. Who doesn’t want to wander down back roads and through one’s own pastures? I used my 1940’s porcelain/enamel pot on a hot plate since an iron pot is not yet in my studio!

dyeing with goldenrod
Dyeing silk with Goldenrod

 

dyeing with sumac
Dyeing silk with Sumac

The results are beautiful and indeed, sustainable, renewable and totally organic. And honestly, our ancestors had a good thing going, I think 🙂

Beautiful Art from Rescued Roses

Seven SIsters old roses
Seven Sisters old roses

Beautiful Art from rescued Roses

Roses in history, in quotes, in art and poetry. Perhaps no other flower has been written, photographed, cultured and painted in all of history.

“What a lovely thing a rose is!” -Arthur Conan Doyle (The Naval Treaty)

“I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday sweet and fragrant, between its leaves.” -L.M. Montgomery (Anne of the Island)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” William Shakespeare

 As artists, my husband and I regroup by exploring back roads, both paved and unpaved. In our many travels we began to bring not just camera and sketchpads, but shovels, buckets, water and pruning shears. And we began rescuing flowers and taking cuttings from abandoned homesteads.

This was once someone's home
This was once someone’s home
A road less traveled
A road less traveled

Sometimes we only discovered totally overgrown homes hidden off dirt roads by noticing a burst of pink, red or white flowers through the growth. On closer inspection we would discover huge rose bushes, or old varieties of Sweet William or daffodils, continuing to grow and bloom with happy abandon, unaware that no one was on the crumbling front porches enjoying their beauty and fragrance any longer.  So we began to take cuttings, dig a few bulbs or flowers in hopes of transplanting them to our mini-farm for them to be seen and enjoyed.

Before long we had our own bushes of Seven Sisters, Old Dawn (climbing) Red Blaze, wild white roses, Lady Banks, Old Glory, tiny leaved Scottish Roses…..and some nameless ones.  My heirloom rose garden includes a red variety of Seven Sisters that my mother collected from her old family homestead (long abandoned) in Mississippi while researching her roots.

 

Seven SIsters old roses
Seven Sisters old roses-pink
Another view of Seven Sisters roses on garden fence
Another view of Seven Sisters roses on garden fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collected from our own family homestead in Mississippi
Climbing Old Dawn
Climbing Old Dawn

As a painting artist, I have painted and photographed my share of beautiful roses over the years. But no art form has excited my creativity as much as collecting and imprinting designs and colors from those roses I have rescued!

In the world of Eco or Botanical printing on fiber, more often than not it is the leaves that leave the best impression, not the actual rose. And it seems fitting as no one immortalizes the rose leaf in poetry and quotes. Even the thorn has numerous symbolic mentions…but the leaves?  Yet without the leaves there would be no rose! I don’t think botanists will ever cultivate a bronze, green  or copper colored rose. But in my work with the rose leaves on Silk, I regularly re-create these colors!

So much, I have learned, depends on what  day, what month and what rose leaves I use…from the tiniest to the largest.  The colors vary, the shapes vary…but the sentiment stays the same for the leaves as it does the beautiful petals. A wondrous surprise every time I work with my rose leaves and silk.

I like to think that the women or men who once planted and loved these roses, would be pleased to see their simple pleasures re-created as beautiful imprints on silk. And that someone cared enough to stop by their once active homes, lost to time and encroaching developments and rescued their roses and flowers to treasure as much as they once did.

Rose leaves on silk
Rose leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
The wide variety of natural colors from the leaves on silk
Natural leaf colors of roses enhanced by indigo
Natural leaf colors of roses enhanced by indigo

Summer Storms and inspiration silk

When I am looking for inspiration, my artist hubby Stephen Filarsky and I travel north from our place to the John Kerr Lake dam.  No matter the weather or time, it is a place to renew my creative energies. It’s easy to feel as though you are absorbing that tranquility!

View of the lake from the causeway
View of the lake from the causeway

And along with that easy feeling that comes with a lazy summer day, comes the realization that summer brings summer rains and occasionally a storm.

Nothing is quite as exhilarating as a powerful summer storm when viewed from a safe place :-).

storm
Storm coming across the lake

Often I collect tree leaves from these drives and flatten them in a sketch pad. These areas produce sumac, red bud and a variety of abundant good printing leaves that I take back to the studio and save.

Black eye Susan plants are everywhere and a childhood favorite of mine.

Field near wildlife refuge
Field near wildlife refuge
black/brown eyed susans
Wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do I do with this all this natural inspiration and plant material? Two of my many recent inspirations: Silk wraps, ecoprinted with one dipped in an indigo vat. Both 36″ x 84″.

The blue one has sold but to see more of what a summer drive in the country inspires, be sure and visit my Amazon shop!

Big beautiful indigo and eco-printed silk wrap. 36″ x 84″

 

ecoprinted silk wrap 36 x 84

 

 

When I discovered  that Floridian Kathy Hays, an expert  in all things related to contact (or eco) printing,  was going to be in my NC area, I jumped on the chance to have a one-on-one workshop with her. I could not make her 3 day workshop in Florida so she put together a jam packed session!  We started early at my studio stirring the vat like a witches brew!

The day was perfect for working outdoors! I had previously washed all the silk to be used as that was my main focus. But indigo works beautifully on all fabrics.     The photos below will take you through the basics of our process 🙂

Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Kathy Hays stirring the Indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat
Testing the color of the indigo vat

Perhaps the most amazing thing to observe is the Green of the initial Indigo turn to blue as it is exposed to the air-oxygen. I think that if we find it magical today, think how the ancients must have felt watching it turn from green to blue in front of their eyes!

Indigo exposed to Oxygen
Indigo exposed to Oxygen

There is no doubt we were having fun!

Checking the results
Checking the results

During and after the workshop I continued to work with my silk, enjoying that feel of working outdoors, creating something beautiful and improving my skills in yet another area of my new favorite medium! Seems my printmaking skills from college have come in handy after all!

Enjoy the collage of a few of the results!   Up close and personal:  see my site!

Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.
Four silk scarves, eco printed and indigo dyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Shows and the ART Studio

The months of April and May have been been “art show” months with several shows each month …..a great way to showcase my work in person! I was hardly able to unload the vehicle  in between shows 🙂  But any way you look at it, if you go to shows you need a place to unload and a place to work! Check out the Silk Art Studio images below 🙂

An outdoor art show
Theresa at Artsplosure in Raleigh NC

 

So what does the studio look in May? Notice the awesome clothesline?

View of studio from afar
View of studio from afar
Inside workspace
Inside the Studio
View of silkstudio
The outdoor work area

Next blog will be all about my Indigo adventure 🙂