Saturday, February 7, 2009
Dyeing to be Blue
This week my Great Blue Heron raised his elegant head for a few appearances. I had constructed the body a few weeks back (see the January 24th post) and it was time to start fleshing him out. Well, feathering him out, I suppose. I started off by dyeing a range of blues and grays for the feathers. With little pots of blue water on the stove, my heron had to peek in to see if there were any little fish for lunch. He stared for quite a while before giving it up to chase dust bunnies in the jungle room. As for the dyes, I often use natural materials or Kool-aid for subtle colors. This time I needed more robust RIT dyes, which are relatively non-toxic and the company is located in Indiana (hooray!). The colors weren't exactly right to suit my heron, but I assured him that I could card colors together and make them just so. With a little smoothing, physical and emotional, he was ready for his first public
appearance: an in-progress avian sculpture for Wonderlab's "Science of Sculpture" program.
On Friday evening I carded wool and poked my heron along the path to biological accuracy with a few dozen new friends. I talked to a lot of adults and children about how the barbed needle I used to felt wool combines the fibers into the shapes I want. I also showed how the carders can be used to combine the raw dyed wool into organized fiber bundles of the colors I need. It's hard work but it's fun to try. To get the heron colors right I checked out books from the Children's section of the Monroe County Public Library. They have books with better pictures than can be found the adult section, and they don't charge late fees when I forget that a book is due. More kids need to check out those books, I decided, since many thought my heron was a stork or an ostrich. Knowing the sensitive nature of my long-legged friend I quickly dissuaded them of that notion. Besides, the stork won't be visiting our house any more. My two boys spent the evening climbing, inventing and eating with friends, while the HoA (husband of artist) patrolled the grounds to keep an eye on things. It was nice to have the family together as I worked.
I should also mention the other projects that were ongoing as I poked and chatted. The terrific Wonderlab group ran a wet felting workshop using wool they dyed with Kool-aid. Kids and adults used soapy water and a lot of hand rolling action to make colorful balls that they carried off in little paper towel coverlets for drying. I saw some beautiful color combinations, and I sensed that a lot of people had fun in what was truly a hands-on learning project. I felt right at home with all the fiber work going on. The "Science of Sculpture" exhibit will go on for a few more weeks with projects such as glass blowing and stone carving on display. If you look carefully you can see one of my fish sculptures hanging from the ceiling, and you can also see my "Shh… the trees are sleeping" show on the wall as you go up the stairs. Stop in if you can! And thanks to everyone who participated and made it a fun event for me.
Until next week…