Recipes for Dyeing

Rangers, Gardeners and Estate Workers, have all been intrigued by my water experiments. A weaver from the island was called up regarding natural dyes; black oak galls were suggested. Gardeners checked the estate inventory, sadly no Quercus velutina on the Estate. Popping into the Arts and Mind workshop a member suggests regular oak plus cedar bark.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d trawled the internet too, then last night the strangest thing happened; my latest bedtime read is a book by Tim Ingold and in the chapter Materials Against Materiality, this: “… from the twelfth century… oak galls are collected crushed and either boiled or infused with rainwater. The other main ingredient is copperas, manufactured by the evaporation of water from ferrous earth or by pouring sulphuric acid on old nails… [] The copperas is added to the oak-gall potion and thoroughly stirred with a stick from a fig tree. This has the effect of turning the solution from pale brown to black. Finally gum arabic – made from the dried up sap of an acacia tree – is added in order to thicken the concoction”. The recipe is for black ink.

And after all this research, I know I won’t be dyeing the water. I could if the artwork were to be a ‘closed system’ – no liquids in or out. The truth hit home during yesterday’s mid-deluge walk into Brodick. I kept losing the path, high-tide had sucked away the beach and swollen tributaries tumbled over low bridges. Sloshing ankle-deep I tried to keep to a notional divide between sea and flooded marsh, water everywhere.sea changeWater in a landscape is rarely still; water within the artwork will be replaced and replenished by Arran’s fantastic rainfall, only sunken material at the bottom of the pool will have any chance of remaining.

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