Last week I went for my final visit to the Rhosygilwen walled garden where John has very kindly been tending a dye patch for me. I gathered the roots and tops of the Lady’s Bedstraw as well as apple leaves, a few almost-over dahlia tops, some black eyed susie flowers and a few fennel fronds to test with eco-printing.
When I proposed this project, I hadn’t allowed for was the end-of-summer rush when all the dye plants are at their best and panic sets in to not lose any of the precious colours before autumn and winter (and the exhibition date!) set in. Although I had a full year in practice the colour end of the work has all taken place in the last 2 or 3 months.
So what I have now at home is a conservatory full of dried, semi-dried and drying flowers and leaves. And buckets of buckets of fermenting ‘stuff’. Luckily fermentation seems to aid the extraction of colour.
Many years ago, the dyers and tanners had to live on the outskirts of town, pariahs of society because of the smell that followed them about. Apparently many married within the family because noone else would have them! In that case, the buckets of urine they used to collect and ferment no doubt contributed to their perfume. I admit I have not been brave enough to collect urine for this project (men’s is apparently better than women’s) and have substituted household ammonia for the task previously taken by that product.
Nevertheless I think it’s worth you knowing that I (and my husband and dog) have ‘suffered’ at least some of this for the project. Rest assured all trace of odour will be gone by the time we get to Tŷ Solar!