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Follow my adventures in natural dyes

Solar: A Harvest Dye Study

Megan Roach

I'm so excited to be in the third day of Solar: A Harvest Dye Study!  Here's some information about the most recent dye study that Elyse Welcher and myself are doing.  You can read our Solar Notes for more information as Artprize progesses.

        The artists of Team Solar, Megan Roach and Elyse Welcher, are Grand Rapids, MI fibers and traditional craft artisans that have been practicing in natural dye work and installation art together for the past 5 years. They also are owners of handcrafted artisan accessory businesses, where they put their craft practices to use creating functional goods from fiber and leather.

        “Solar: A Harvest Dye Study,” is a culmination of research and experimentation with natural dyes that have been previously utilized in the creation of functional goods and fine art in their making practices.  For ArtPrize 7,    Megan and Elyse wanted to bring this long-time study and accumulation of knowledge to the public in a way that engages with their audience for the duration of the event, and shares the harvest of our region’s natural color palette beyond creating products. 

        Traditional natural dyeing is done on the stove-top, and is a relatively quick procedure- solar dyeing, on the other hand, is an ancient dyeing technique that requires extensive soaking of the fibers, and can last for weeks to months, depending on the desired results. Thus, “Solar: A Harvest Dye Study,” is a time-based work that is particularly suited to the structures of ArtPrize; with 18 days of time for the dyes to soak with the yarn, the requirements for daily open venue hours where the experiment is happening, how it falls during the prime of autumn harvest season- all of these things provide an ideal scenario in which this artful science can take place.
By taking samples and documenting them via the loom and our combined physical and digital notes, it is both science and art, a cross-over study between two arenas that are often considered disparate by the general public.
Via ArtPrize, we seek to share our knowledge, educate our audience, and demonstrate our passion for this ancient craft of harvesting color. 

The Experiment:

The power of the sun will heat up the glass
jars of dye matter, and change the color of yarn
throughout the 18 days of the Artprize competition. 

Michigan harvested dye matters used (90 grams per jar)
    + Marigold
    + Daylilies
    + Hibiscus
    + Goldenrod
    + Crushed walnuts
    + Crushed acorns
    + Inner birch bark
    + Apple bark

Other Materials:
720 grams of merino wool
8 gallon sized glass jars
4 stainless steel bowls
stainless steel utensils

Solar dyeing is a process
in which the sun is used to heat up
jars that contain natural dye matter and yarn in order
to release the color from the matter to dye the yarn. 
This is a slow process for dyework in which
dye jars can be left in the sun for a few days to a
few months in order to obtain complex colors.

Nine, 10 gram skeins are placed in each gallon glass jar.
These skeins have been soaked in an alum mordant bath in order
to open up the fiber to accept the dye.  The jars are filled with
90 grams of dye matter and filled to the top with cool water. 
This recipe allows for equal weights of dye matter to yarn while
allowing for plenty of space for movement in the jars.

The jars are then placed in the window of Parliament the Boutique
for the duration of Artprize.  A 10 gram skein will be
pulled every 48 hours from the jars and left to dry
before they are woven on a four harness loom.

    The results will be shown through a
series of nine weavings that will be woven throughout the course
of Artprize.  Each weaving will represent a 48 hour period in which
a sample from each jar have been pulled out, washed, and dried.
These samples will be woven in the same stripe pattern every time to
show the progression of color throughout the 18 days of Artprize.