After finishing my arts degree end of last year I spent the first months of 2017 getting my arts career started. This means making work for art galleries in the North Island, designing workshops, running my first couple of workshops, getting the paper stuff sorted, beginning a new Body or Work, networking with artist fellow artists, galleries and customers.

No wonder I needed a break! I was missing the ‘play time’ as a student, when you just explore, experiment not worrying about the outcome or failures (and generally something great comes out of it anyway).

So I gathered some plant materials such as eucalyptus, bark, loquat and osage orange, sorting out some silk scarves – some already naturally dyed, some not really successful. I over dyed with natural dyes, used some random shibori techniques, and basically just had some fun! Here a few images of my explorations. It was definitely worth it, inspired by the results.

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
peach leaves soaking in a copper vessel

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
silk dyed with osage orange, different mordants – changing hues

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
osage orange silk partially dyed with loquat leaves – gives beautiful oranges

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
partially over dyed silk

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
merino dyed with barberry bark, over dyed with eucalyptus

plant dyeing Birgit Moffattplant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
silk/wool fabric previously dyed with cochineal, over dyed with eukalyptus bark – detail

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
a mix of shibori techniques with indigo, marigold and eucalyptus leaves – detail

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
silk dyed with marigold over dyed with eucalyptus leaves – detail

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
silk dyed with cochineal and eucalyptus – preparing for third dye pot

plant dyeing Birgit Moffattplant dyeing Birgit Moffatt

same piece just removed from the dye pot

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
result

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
loquat dyed silk over dyed with eucalyptus – left to dry creating the crinkle effect

plant dyeing Birgit Moffatt
detail

When it comes to natural dyes, it is sometimes hard to get a bright and strong red colour. The main sources for a range of reds are madder root and cochineal. I had this jar of cochineal sitting in my studio for about two years with the intention to use it one day. That day has eventually come.

Cochineal is a beetle which lives on cacti in Middle and South America. Only the female body (!) gives the dye when it is dried out and pulverized.  The substance is called carmine and can also be found in food and cosmetic industry. In the past centuries cochineal was a main dye source for red dyes, today its often used by artists and artisans in their work, who are helping to keep this traditional knowledge alive.

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
dried cochineal beetles

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
in pulverized form

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
For my dyeing session I prepared a couple of silk and wool fabrics, using the itajime shibori technique (clamps).

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
the dye pot

Here are some images of the finished pieces, the colours raspberry like on the wool, a bit more pink on silk.

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffattnatural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt

natural dyeing with cochineal by Birgit Moffatt
I wonder why I haven’t used this amazing dye source before, I am pretty sure this source will be one of my favorites in the future.

Living in Otaki, a small town on the lower North Island of New Zealand, I feel very lucky being able to go down the beach whenever I like, sometimes for exercise, sometimes to forage and sometimes just to inhale the salty air helping to clear my mind. I often take my camera to capture the amazing scenery and beautiful organic forms, often serving as inspiration for my work.

Kapiti Islands majestic silhouetteOtaki Beach WalkOtaki Beach Walkshells showing off ephemerality and perfectionOtaki Beach WalkOtaki Beach WalkSpinifex all over the placeOtaki Beach Walk Otaki Beach Walk(a empty beachOtaki Beach Walkalmost…lovely organic formsOtaki Beach Walk Otaki Beach WalkOtaki Beach WalkJust those New Zealand boats still looking very strange for me.

These are two new workshops I am happy to offer in my studio, lots of learning, lots of fun!

Shibori/Natural Dye Workshop

I was always a bit nervous with indigo and had a few failures, trying to make a working vat. Discouraging every time. Not this time. I just gave it another go, using Michel Garcia’s organic vat, using indigo, lime and fructose crystals. And succeeded! I didn’t want to believe it but it really worked and its magic! How the fabric turns from white to green, teal and eventually to blue. The more often the fabric is dipped into the vat, the darker the blue shades that can be achieved.

I also love the idea that the vat can be used over a period of time, but it needs to be a bit looked after, get fed, stirred and if necessary revived!

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt
I used a couple of shibori techniques (folding, clamping and binding) to achieve simple yet very beautiful patterns.

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit MoffattDyeing in progress, the teal colour will magically turn into dark blue.

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt
This one is made with black walnuts bound into the silk and resisted with rubber bands.

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit MoffattBound with gum nuts, it event took a bit of the colour!

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt
Over dyeing a silk scarf, rust dyed before.

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt
This scarf is eco dyed with eucalyptus leaves, then twice dipped into the vat.

indigo shibori by Birgit Moffatt
And my new pair of cotton indigo socks. Who said socks are boring x mas presents…?

 

 

 

As an artist I am looking for inspirations all the time, often unconscious.  There is for sure the internet with millions of websites and images and I can spend hours searching and getting lost before I realise that is has already gone dark outside.

But I also like to read (and own) real books, books that I can touch and feel the pages between my fingers. Books I have owned for years and never got bored with. Sometimes I just run my fingers across the book backs, randomly picking one and be surprised to find new inspirations, more bits of information, that sparks ideas even though I have flicked through them hundreds of times… well maybe not quite hundreds.

These  are some of my favourite textile books (till the next one) I would like you to know about.

The Worldwide Colours of felt is a relatively new one, from Ellen Bakker and a collection of felt creations from around the world. It has hundreds of beautiful images and is written in Dutch, English and German. It gives me great inspirations and joy as it is colourful and light (images only).

Birgit Moffatts favourite textile books Birgit Moffatts favourite textile books Birgit Moffatts favourite textile booksShibori is more than an introduction to this ancient resist dye technique, with lots of history around the art and beautiful images of different dye patterns. I in particular like the illustrations showing the individual shibori techniques. It also describes some natural dye recipes.

Birgit Moffatts favourite textile books img_0039 img_0040Eco Colour from India Flint is my natural dye bible, the book is beautifully made, covers a variety of natural dye techniques information about mordents, preparations of fibres and even a list of dye plants.  Although I had some difficulties to understand certain aspects in this book (I am an artist not a scientist) the more I learn on my natural dye journey the clearer become some of the explanations.

Birgit Moffatts favourite textile booksBirgit Moffatts favourite textile booksBirgit Moffatts favourite textile booksLast but not least I purchased the book Natural Processes in Textile Art from Alice Fox last year and again it is beautifully made with easy step by step instructions to get started. It also introduces some established fibre artist working with using nature as inspiration and source for their work.

Birgit Moffatts favourite textile books Birgit Moffatts favourite textile books

I often get ask about eco prints. People sometimes think they are made using a screen print technique or the colour comes from synthetic dyes. I have taken this as an opportunity to give you a short overview what eco print is and why I am so passionate about it.

Eco print, also known as leaf print, is a direct contact method to make prints, drawing out pigments from plant material onto fabric (and paper) with the help of moisture and time. Moisture in form of heated water can be used either through steam or in a simmering bath; both allow the cloth to accept the dye. The lengths of time of the contact between plant material and fabric will influence the result as well.

eco print native plants by Birgit Moffatteco print on merino fabric

Natural dyes bond particularly well with any protein fibres (silk, wool) and cellulose fibres (cotton, linen) although bonding of pigments with cellulose fibres are usually less strong and vibrant.

Eco prints can be produced from a vast variety of plant materials such as leaves, flower petals, barks and vegetable skins, the selection is endless. Applied mordents (a fixer which ensures colour and light fastness) will have an impact on the outcomes. A mix of different mordents will change the colour of the print. Other factors such as the season and location of plant collection and the mineral content of the water will help shifting and changing colours.

eukalyptus eco print by Birgit Moffatteucalyptus cinerea

This is what excites me about the process; experimenting with these endless combinations to achieve sophisticated and unique prints, often unexpected. Although using a two dimensional technique, the natural and unevenly colours of the prints turn them into a work with a three dimensional impression.

Living in New Zealand I am particular interested in testing eco prints from native plants of the New Zealand bush preliminary on wool and silks. This includes research about plants used by Maori as food and dye source and in traditional medicine. Gathering this old knowledge also helps to understand the world around me.

eco print with lichen by Birgit Moffatteco print with lichen

Learning about the alchemy of plants is another important aspect of eco print, but is secondary for my artistic and serendipitous explorations.

As a textile artist I am trying to find new ways of mark making onto fabrics and sometimes onto paper. My desire is to make unique eco prints is a sustainable approach to use traditional dye plants in a new way, as an art form, revealing the invisible.

eco print native plants by Birgit Moffatteco print native plants by Birgit Moffatt
eco print with ake ake and kanuka