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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Fine Day in June...

Chadley and Sara just before Chad's brain got fried in Vegetable Dye Chemistry class.
There's been a song wandering around in my brain today that has a line that goes,"It's a fine day in June, la la la lala la."  That's about all I remember from most songs, but it was an Irish tune, probably about a depressing situation like self rule or famine. However when I see that first empty space when started another blog post, whatever is in my head becomes the title.  Then I try to match up a written theme to that title and then I am in deep writer's block dodo.

I am a lot smarter today than I was during the last blog post in April.  I determined that this year, instead of visiting my dear friend Joke in Holland, I would take three classes. I have written about the book class with Dan Essig in January, but then came a fabulous experience learning to make paper, beautiful, useful paper at Bookworks right here in West Asheville.

 Here I am with our teacher, the ever patient (I have NEVER seen such a patient man!!) and famous paper maker Frank Bannon.  He is probably explaining to me why dropping a big mac into the Hollander beater is Not a good idea.  I am fascinated with the tools of new endeavors, and paper making has some nice ones.  Beautifully hand crafted molds and deckles, hydraulic presses, drying racks, and that very expensive Hollander beater which I love.  I never believed folks when they would try to make a connection between felt and paper.  "No, no.  It's totally different.  Have you no eyes!" But now I feel a strong technical connection between the two.  It may have been the water or the buckets or the process or the water.
I found that in learning the steps to prepare the fibers for processing, I was repeating steps from my earlier textile techniques.  My years of sourcing, cutting up and weaving rugs from corduroy pants has prepared me for the same job of searching goodwills for linen clothing and cutting them to useable size.  I like that type of echoing of my textile history.  Makes me feel that I am still on a path of sorts.  I suppose the thrill and excitement of taking home a bundle of almost translucent, crisp flax paper with deep brown edges is a plus also.

I will be returning to the paper mill the last week of July with two wonderful friends who were also in my class.  Since we all did the papermaking intensive and did not burn down, blow up, or flood the place, we are all now certified to use the mill on our own.

And then I took my last class at St. Andrew's/Sewanee in TN.  Michel Garcia, master vegetable dyer from Apt, France.  I am in love with this sweet, incredibly intelligent, funny man.  Although he was showing us some basic chemistry: acid, bases, salts (and probably a bit of lemon juice) I, at least, even with textile chemistry under my belt, felt several times a day that my brain was nearing self destruct mode. ("Danger, Will Robinson")  So then Michel would tell us simple but maddening stories about foxes and dogs with big mouths and cats with tiny ones and friends of friends of friends, and rabbits and carrots and donkeys and sugar.

fustic lake
One thing we learned that I am very excited about is the creation of lakes; dye and/or pigment lakes from the vegetable dyes.  On one hand, making lakes from left over dyebaths is a great way to save the dye.  Just put in small bottle with clove oil and arrange it artfully on a shelf.  But if you let the dye dry out, it becomes a pigment, ready, with the addition of some carrier, for the paper. 

It is almost too much to learn all of this as I want to do everything at once.  When I am at the class, I am full of ideas. When I get home, I want to start on those ideas but then what about the dishes, or the cat box (more important as it is near the dye stove), or all those emails, or mail, bills...well you get the idea. 
madder lake

I have one more week off right now and before I start the hectic packing for another whirlwind of workshop teaching maybe I will study that "Chemistry for fools or idiots"book I ordered. How do you take advantage of new knowledge, when the old stuff still needs tending to...I have been getting up early to start my interval running (first 5K in November) but after that is done  I have to take a nap (part of the training) eat, do the dishes and then it's time to watch NCIS!!  Somehow I will manage to figure this out, the greatest question of all time.  If you have any ideas, mail them to me with a few hundred dollar bills.
Early morning figuring out place!


  1. MICHEL GARCIA?!?! oooh, must have been a brain fry indeed. Altho I'm betting Joke is not too keen about missing you this year, your workshop plunge sounds pretty terrif!

    Wish I had some useful *time management* advice to pass along...alas, that might as well be chemistry as far as I'm concerned [ hopeless ].

  2. Chad Alice, It is wonderful to read your post and see what you're up to, and read what you wrote about our wonderful class. I'm glad you're going back soon to make some paper. Wish I could join you all! Alas, when will this country have European standards of vacation time!? Take care- Andrea