Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Problem solving?

I love the way a research guides you from an encounter to another. This is when the making sets out to be a social experinece as much as a physical relationship with material.
Passing on knowledge seems to be part of human nature; I met Sarah Waters this week, a felt maker from Woodgreen, New Forest, a grerat wool specialist who started from breeding the sheep before she got into felting.

I discovered new types of wool to use and tips as to which one felts or dyes best, how to wash it...
Then, she put me on to Judy Hardiman, expert in natural dyes, living near Romsey, who gave me two young madder plants and a weld. She also gave me precious historical information about madder and army coat dyeing.

However, the more I seem to learn about madder, the more the task I set to do seems impossible;
The scale I wish to work in makes the technique irrelevant; natural plant dyeing is such a lengthy and random process that It will not respond to my expectations of finding a specific colour for a large amount of material. So why was it used to creat an army, I wonder?
But the real question is, can I recreate , for the sake of one project, the process that was originaly used out of no alternative?

My first major problem is the amount of madder needed to achieve the depth of colour I am going for.

Monday, 16 May 2011


I have just set-up a base for experimental work at m,y studio in West Dean. Over there, I can heat up water much quicker and try all sorts in a small scale.I am working on getting the right colour RED and the search for it is a quest filled with encounters, a mix of witch craft, and scientific experiments, recepes traced online, tips from here and there and water PH testing. For the latest, I have collecting water from River Bourne, River Avon in the New Forest, where it is rich in iron, rain water, tap water, and even stale water... Each water type will change the shade of red I will get.

In the past two weeks, I have had the company of a group of young carers asp part of a project for the Salisbury International Arts Festival. We have had two magical afternoons playing in the space, lighting and maintaining fires through the day, washing fleece and experimenting with colours.

It is great to see the shed filed with life and energy.

I am looking forward to a hands-on day, 1st of June 10am to 3pm, for which I am inviting the public of all ages to come and help wash some fleece for the project. Children must be accompanied by adults.

You can pop in at the farm any week day to see the progress of the research layed out on a board in the education room.

Important note;

I am still looking for more sheep fleece and would like to get involved in sheering so if you know someone who keeps sheep and wants to get read of the fleece, please let me or the farm know.

Do not hesitate to send your comments, call or pop in !

Look forward to see you at the Sheep Shed!