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Gathering Color in Fairfax…

Here are more photos for the book I am working on with Rebecca Burgess, the ecological artist and writer from Marin County. Her book Gathering Color will teach people how to create natural dyes, for their fiber arts projects, from native and non-native plants that grow in their region.

In order for the book to have national appeal, we traveled to as many different geographic regions as we could. These are some of the plants growing in our region that Rebecca often uses for her own fiber art projects.

I fell in love with the Prickly Pear.

(please click on the photos if you would like to see the colors pop.)

Gathering Color… and Portraits of Fiber Artists…

I attended a natural dye workshop in Missouri with Rebecca Burgess, for her book on natural dyes. While the landscape and the plants were definitely pretty…

…I often found myself distracted by the other people in the workshop.

I know that these portraits will not make it in this book, but maybe the next book can be about Natural Dyers… because I have found them to be a pretty visually unique group of people.

Gathering Color in Arizona…

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For the next year, I will be working with Rebecca Burgess, ecological artist and writer, on her book Gathering Color. The book will teach people how to create natural dyes, from native plants in their region, for their fiber arts projects. In order for the book to have national appeal, we are traveling to as many different geographic regions as we can, to work with locals who use native plants for their own fiber creations.

Our first adventure was to the Navajo Reservation in Window Rock, Arizona. It was my first time in the Navajo Nation, so I did a little more documenting than was necessary for the book, but I couldn’t help myself. Not only were the urban and natural landscapes so visually interesting, but also it was Inter-Tribal Ceremonial weekend and National Navajo Code Talkers Day, so there was a lot going on.

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Our adventure was divided between two days. One day for hunting and gathering, and one day for dyeing.

Our day of plant hunting began bright and early on Friday morning and it involved lots of driving, climbing under barbed wire fences, digging for wild carrots, walking on endless plateaus of sage, and discovering Navajo Tea in an incredible Navajo Veterans’ cemetery at sunset.

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To link the traditional Navajo plants with the traditional Navajo wool, we also went on a search for the rare Navajo-Churro Sheep. We found a herd at the Hubbell Trading Post, where we learned how the US government almost killed off the breed completely, on two different occasions, and consequently devastated the Navajo people, who depended on the sheep for survival. It is absolutely amazing that both the Navajo and the Churro still exist today.

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Day two…our dyeing day, was spent at Rose’s house, where we were welcomed by a chorus of cute dogs and a few of her fourteen grandchildren, who she is raising with the help of her husband, Henry.

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When Rebecca and I arrived, we found Rose already getting the pots ready over the fire pit. Once the water started to boil, it was on. Everyone had to work quickly in the heat and smoke. I learned that dyeing wool with natural dyes is about finding the perfect balance between plant matter, wool, time, heat, and water, in order to get the perfect color.

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If you are curious to know more about the people, the process, and the plants, visit Rebecca’s blog: http://ecologicalartist.wordpress.com/2009/08/18/desert-harvest/. Rebecca took lots of good notes about Rose’s story, and about the plants that Rose’s family has been using for so many generations.

It is really really nice to work with writers who focus on the details, while I get to focus on the visuals. I wish all my projects came with talented writers. Thank you Rebecca and Kitty for this amazing opportunity.

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Do not take stylists for granted…

With our fingers crossed, I think I can say that Rebecca Burgess and I are finished with photo shoots for her book… seven months, six blog posts, four states, and at least twelve photo shoots later.

Our last and final task was to photograph the beautiful knit pieces that Heidi Iverson designed and knit to represent spring and winter.

Seemingly not a hard task, but for some reason we didn’t quite get it right. With our focus on other aspects of the photo shoots (like: logistics, lighting, timing) and no budget for a stylist, we forgot to think about styling, and we left that job up to the models…

Which is not always the best idea, especially when the models have no idea what they are supposed to be styling their clothes to match, having not seen the knit pieces.

So when the models showed up with clothes that didn’t quite fit the look we were going for, we dressed them in my clothes, which also didn’t quite fit the look we were going for (and made me depressed about my wardrobe,) and as a result we got photos that didn’t quite fit the look we were going for.

We needed hip but not hippie, natural but definitely not synthetic, and style…. so we had to take-two. And for that we called in the professionals… like Genevieve who was born with style and knew exactly what to bring when I showed her the photo of the scarf.

And as you can see, it makes a big difference…

Notice beautiful Shugri’s over-sized and synthetic sweater?

Not her fault. Shugri did a fantastic job and she was so gracious to volunteer her time on her birthday. But unfortunately the goofy gray sweater from Ross Dress for Less (embarrassingly mine) doesn’t quite do it… in either of the photo shoots…

Both Sarah and Elizabeth also did a fantastic job being beautiful in the woods with the hats… but I can’t get over the sweater, the stupid sweater, which is also mine. This just proves that I need a stylist to come have an intervention in my closet.

So we tried again with the hats too. And having gone through the first failed attempt with us, this time the very stylish Sarah knew just what to bring to match the hats, including her cute son, River.

So, as my friend’s toddler says, “Ta-dah!” I think we did it.

I want to send out a huge thank you to everyone who very generously contributed their time and energy to make this such a fun and eventually successful project.

This is how we do it, and you can do it too…

Nature created amazing plants.

Rebecca Burgess dyed wool into cool colors… with the amazing plants that nature created.

Heidi Iverson designed patterns and knit fun gloves and a blanket… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

Beautiful ladies and cute children modeled the fun gloves and blanket that Heidi Iverson designed and knit… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

I took photos of the beautiful ladies and cute children… who modeled the fun gloves and blanket that Heidi Iverson designed and knit… with the wool that Rebecca Burgess dyed into cool colors… from the amazing plants that nature created.

All of this teamwork is for Rebecca Burgess’s book about creating dyes with native plants from the different regions in the United States. Her ultimate goal is to help people become more aware about their fiber-shed, which means thinking about wearing clothes that are made locally, just like the food we eat. Through her book, Rebecca hopes to show people how easy it is to create vibrant colors and cool clothes from the plants that are in our own environment.

It has been a fantastic project to work on and I can’t wait to see how all this teamwork comes out in the end.

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