textiles · exploration · misadventure

I’m Not In Love


01 setup (3)The back porch looked a little like my dad’s garage this week, but has since been put back in order.

Ever since I did my first rust dyes, I’ve been wanting to try more. In the meantime, I discovered Lois Jarvis’ blog,, and managed to track down and purchase a copy of Lois’ tutorial CD, which is hard to find these days. Sadly, Lois Jarvis, who popularized rust dyeing several years ago, was diagnosed with dementia a few years back, and can no longer dye.

It’s interesting, these blog relationships. We meet people online, sometimes getting to know a person real-time, and sometimes only through their blog archives, which often fascinate me. I start at their beginnings, and trace their artistic development up to the present.

Sometimes that results in sad surprises, like with Lois Jarvis, a beautiful, glorious, excited, passionate textile artist, who was stopped cold in her joyous explorations by a serious illness that prevents her from enjoying them ever again. Heartbreaking.

01 setup (4)So in the tradition of Lois Jarvis, and thinking of Lois Jarvis, I explored her CD, and began to experiment with more rust dyeing.

Lois used several techniques to make rust marks on fabric, and I thought about these while eyeballing treasures in the mulch over at San Pablo Flea Market and Urban Ore.

Rust makes marks on fabric with water alone, but salt and vinegar speed and enhance the process, and copper will darken the marks, so I made sure to pick up copper items along with my rusty bits.

01 setup (5) I prepared my materials in different ways, set them on the porch for a space, and tried to leave them alone. It was really hard.

Each day, I found myself touching them, admiring them, examining them, and sometimes adding more vinegar water to them.

Here they are, one day in:

one day in

one day in 2

And THEN, two days later, I get to unwrap them, and it’s WAY better than Christmas.

oxalis green
This one’s my favorite. Enamel-stamped cotton muslin, slightly damp, wrapped around copper pipe and two iron rods, stuffed with a few oxalis blooms. The oxalis contains tannin, which makes the black marks. The dye marks are so heavy that the enamel stamping is all but obliterated. The detail shot shows a close up on the greens from the copper pipe, and the blacks from the oxalis and copper. There were even two or three small but brilliant red marks, which differ in tone from the oranges.

Matt’s and my old cotton bedsheet, dampened. Spread with steel wool and salt, wrapped with copper wire around a bottle. I realized after I unwrapped this that the copper wire was coated, which interferes with the darkening action of copper on rust. Lois warned about that, but I forgot to check. I now have some uncoated copper wire, and will try to darken this further.

This one’s my favorite. More of Matt’s and my old cotton bedsheet, dampened. Sprinkled with steel wool, wrapped around copper pipe with iron wire. I love the values on this one, how it almost looks like there’s light falling on it from left to right.

muslin gathered stamped dry
Enamel-stamped cotton muslin, very lightly dampened, gathered in bottom of rusty pan, sprinkled with rust and salt, topped with rusty items and copper pipe. In the detail shot at right, I love how the rust has adhered to the enamel paint and darkened it. This is just where the copper pipe was resting.

muslin gathered stamped
As above, enamel-stamped cotton muslin, very lightly dampened, gathered in bottom of rusty pan, sprinkled with rust and salt, topped with rusty items and copper pipe.

cast iron
As above, enamel-stamped cotton muslin. Thoroughly wetted and placed in a rusty cast-iron pan.

copper waves
No, this one’s my favorite. Old cotton pillowcase, gift from my friend Diane. Wrapped dry about a copper pipe, wrapped about with coated copper wire (light trails) and rusty iron wire (dark trails), then dampened. I absolutely adore this. The detail shots show some of my favorite areas, beautiful island-like shapes, a nice bit of green from the copper pipe, dark wandering lines. Thank you, Diane!

dry forest
More of Matt’s and my old bedsheet, wetted, and wrapped about slim iron rods. In the details shots you can see that the markings are almost topographical and have manifested in a variety of patterns.

05 washed and ironed (43)
Actually, this one’s my real favorite. The other half of Diane’s old pillowcase. Wrapped around copper pipe with iron and coated copper wire. Utterly fantastical.

waves of glory 2

waves of glory
The green markings here are from the copper pipe.

Tattered handwoven cotton blanket. Wetted and gathered in bottom of rusty pan, sprinkled with rust and salt, topped with rusty items and copper pipe.

rusty edges
I already have a thing for edges. I just adore these rusty ones.

Thesw were incredibly tactile to make and work with, which is THE one quality that I adore most about working with textiles. I love to touch, I LOVE textures, and getting my hands dirty, wet, and rough. When I’m making textiles, I’m particularly aware of how I’m using my hands, how good that feels. It’s like a mainline into my pleasure centers.

Unlike many of my early samples, these are all fairly large—large enough to actually DO something with—and ideas involving madder, indigo, and handstitching are percolating heavily.

Guess what I just got in the mail?