Timm Ranch sheep shearing with Fibershed.
If only all photo shoots could happen at sunset, with perfectly fluffy puffy clouds, donkeys, barns, brand new tiny lambs and a community of lovely people who work to take care of them. Thank you, Fibershed, for bringing me out of my editing shell to Bodega Pastures. Look for a full Farm Story on Fibershed coming soon.
The first step for Rebecca’s Fibershed challenge is to process all of the locally sourced wool and cotton that the local fiber artists need to make the Fibershed clothes that Rebecca will be wearing every single day for the next year.
So our first trip was up to Yolo Wool Mill in Woodland, California… which is 82.3 miles away from where Rebecca lives in Fairfax, and therefore it is well within the boundaries of Rebecca’s 150 mile Fibershed. And there we met Jane Dreamer, the owner of the Yolo Wool Mill.
Rebecca brought with her three bags full of wool that she bought from a meat sheep farmer in Marin, who was planning on throwing away the wool because he didn’t know what else to do with it.
Rebecca and Jane weighed the wool so the processing of cleaning, carding and spinning, in all of these big machines, could begin.
Jane was an excellent tour guide. She carefully explained the history of each machine and showed us how each one worked in order to make the final product.
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It is amazing that such big, clunky, ancient, greasy machines can make something so beautifully delicate… and it is even more amazing to think that it all is made right here in our very own Fibershed.
To learn more about the history of mills and more about the machines we saw at Yolo Wool Mill, visit the Fibershed blog: http://fibershed.wordpress.com/
If you are curious to know more about what Fibershed is you can read more here: https://paigegreen.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/fibershed/
We have only 15 more days to reach our fund raising goal on kickstarter. If we don’t reach that goal we will not get the funds that have been pledged so far.
So if you enjoyed this post and if you would like to see more of them, then please consider making a donation here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fibershed/funding-fibershed-one-year-150-miles
If you liked this post, but you can not support it financially, then you can vote for our project to win a $10,00o grant here: http://www.nau.com/collective/grant-for-change/rebecca-burgess-1355.html
Next stop: Sally Fox’s farm in the Capay Valley and Rebecca wearing her first complete Fibershed outfit.
Spring has finally arrived and suddenly everything is coming to life again, including my schedule. I have a lot of exciting new projects on the horizon, and after a good long, wet winter, I am ready to get to work again.
One of the potential projects that I am most excited about, is working with Rebecca Burgess on her year long commitment to Fibershed.
Rebecca is trying to bring awareness to the problems surrounding our current textile industry, and to do so, she has vowed to only wear clothes that are made within her Fibershed.
This means that for one year she can only wear clothes that are made from fiber (wool or cotton) that is grown and produced within 150 miles of her home in Marin County.
So Rebecca is working with local farmers, like Mimi Luebbermann at Windrush Farm, local artists, like Heidi Iverson, fashion design students and local businesses… and hopefully I will get to document it all… if she gets enough funding.
Because Rebecca is eager to get this project going as fast as possible, she has set up a sort of micro-loan program with a cool organization called Kickstarter. Kickstarter provides a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers… and we have to find people to provide the funding.
So our search for people who are interested in supporting this important project has begun. And the first step is education.
So if you would like to learn more about Fibershed then check out Rebecca’s new blog:
If you would like to learn more about Rebecca then check out her new website:
If you would like to help make this very cool project come to life, then please click here:
And if we get enough support, hopefully, very soon, you’ll get to see the farms and farmers where Rebecca will get her fiber, you’ll get to see the artisans who will make her clothes, and you’ll get to see Rebecca wearing some incredibly fashionable, sustainable and locally made clothes.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is nice to be connected with people who promote my photography, since I don’t do a good job of promoting myself. Ever since I returned from London, I have been meaning to take my portfolio around to magazines in the area, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet.
But luckily, Mimi, my soon-to-be-mother-in-law, is an amazing person with a wonderful lifestyle that magazines want to write about. So when Brandon, from California Country Magazine, called her and said they wanted to do a story about her and her natural dying process, she said, “I have just the photographer for you.”
It was so fun to have a taste of what real magazine work, and budgets, are like. The magazine gave me a shot list and an exact number of photos that they wanted… and when Brandon asked me if I would be “ok” with their day rate… I had to try and remain cool and not act surprised…. yeah, I guess that’ll do.
These are just some of my favorites from the day and what I learned about natural dying…
First… collect your plant material… Mimi uses black walnuts, dahlias, onion skins, marigolds and tansy (shown below.)
Here is a super simplified instruction list for making your own natural dyes:
Put your material in your pot…
bring it to boil…
cook for an hour…
let it cool…
add a mordant (Mimi uses nontoxic mordants like alum and cream of tarter)…
add your pre-soaked wool…
bring to boil again…
cook for an hour…
cool in dye…
rinse until water runs clear…
and hang to dry.
Thanks to: Mimi for promoting me, and to California Country Magazine for giving me the opportunity to work on this project. I hope it is just the beginning of my magazine assignments.
Recently I received a phone call from a young woman who asked if I could photograph her textiles. My immediate response was, “Well, you may want a studio photographer. Someone who is better at making things look perfect. I only use natural light and my favorite studio is a barn.”
And she said, “Perfect.”
Then she went on to describe what she does and I said, “Perfect.”
Rebecca Burgess is her name, and Ecological Arts is her business. Rebecca creates textiles with fiber that is produced and dyed using sustainable practices. An example of a sustainable fiber that she uses is vegan silk. Vegan silk is made from cocoons after the worms have emerged; instead of the traditional silk that is made by boiling the cocoons with the the worms still in them…. a fun new farming practice to add to the list.
So Rebecca is doing super cool work with communities around the world, including the community she lives in, and she is making beautiful works of art that she wanted photographed in a natural way…. so we went to the barn. I tried a couple of other spots first, and they were ok… but the barn was the best. Simple, complimentary colors, and without wicker furniture to move out of the way.
This last photo is cool, because she is dying the wool with native California plants like coyote brush and coffee berry. She wanted this photo to demonstrate how protecting our native plants and planting with our native plants is not only beneficial for the soil, water table, and native animals, but it also can be fun to use for your next sustainable wool creation. Yay Rebecca!