Friday, September 6, 2013

Dying Experiments: Pattern and Chaos

Following up on Grace's experiments with dying, and inspired by her use of a tin can which made this magnificent mark, I went looking for a tin can. From a distance of a few feet, in the evening light, under a tarmac-locked black walnut tree, this thing looked like a tin can.

It wasn't a tin can, it was whatever this is, heavy, threaded on the inside. I suppose it is a coupling of some kind. But for what and from where I just can't imagine. Since it was what I found, when looking, I decided to try to use it. So I wrapped it with a 6" x 36" strip of second hand linen, pleated until it was just long enough to cover the outside of the coupling. I dyed it with a fresh walnut dye pot, made in a small (4 cup) crock pot.


And it made this mark:

A beautiful mark, what I just at first welcomed as a kind of happy accident. But a comment from Heather on my last post here made me notice that it wasn't just an accident. Yes, I didn't know it was going to look like x-rays of teeth (?) when I prepared the cloth. But I did plan something of it, pleating, tying. A ha. So I keep making them. I'm up to five, two on linen, two on what I think is unbleached diaper cloth, one on part of an old tea towel:

They are weirdly similar to each other, but also quite unique. Each bundle was tied differently, of course, a kind of randomness.

Each one I tied in the same fashion, but not in the same places or the same ways. Each set of pleats was uncounted, just enough to shorten the cloth, make a stack of pleats I could handle easily enough to tie.

The dye in the pot changes a bit each time, as well, as it interacts with the iron coupling. Today when I dropped in a bundle there was a crystalline rind on the top of the pot. The pot dyes some parts of the cloth black, some parts are still brown.

And so. It occurs to me that there are interactions here, between me and the 'stuff'- the walnuts, the water, the heat source, the metal thing-  and among those things themselves. These interactions aren't unknown, I could even investigate each further. These interactions are possibly not uncontrollable, but can I just let them be uncontrolled? There is something in the 'unknown' that I want to hang on to now, for now.

So that's the update; I am thinking about these uncontrolled interactions as productive. Thank you for stopping by.


  1. you have gotten marvelous results. it is the unexpected result that makes me continue to do this kind of dyeing.

  2. I see stick figures, faces, bones, and yes, teeth. It's amazing how the eye wants to make sense of chaos. Your experiments are really beautiful, and I love how you used what appeared in your path - the iron coupling - rather than the object - a tin can - that you were originally seeking. There is a lovely metaphor in that.