Sunday, June 16, 2013

Natural Plaids

Last week I watched Elin Noble's class at QSDS carefully measure and mix a variety of animal, vegetable and mineral substances to create mordants and natural dyes. Odd smells sometimes wafted through the halls. The names sounded like something from an ancient book on witchcraft: fustic, weld, lac, cochineal, gall nuts. These dyes came from far-flung regions. Some of them originally traveled with spices and jewels along the silk road and were almost as precious as their traveling companions.  Students painted mordants from selvedge to selvedge, then the dyes from cut edge to cut edge. Dyes and mordants combined into plaids, darker, brighter or more yellow where each dye crossed each mordant. Everyone walking down the hallway stopped to look at the clothesline strung with overlapping, graphically arresting plaids. They are more than beautiful. Each cloth is a map which can guide its owner back into an ancient and exotic world.