Traveling Guatemala

Long time no see! I spent a couple weeks in Guatemala with hubby plus 12 more people that came along with us this past February. The route was amazing. We started the trip in Guatemala City (just one night which was plenty) and then we flew to Tikal the next day. Keith was leading a bird watching tour, and so I got to enjoy the great outdoors of this wonderful country. We tend to go to places off the beaten path to look for birds, but it’s unavoidable to visit “the must to go” places like walking through the markets or the streets of Antigua (one of my favorite cities). After several years of not visiting the country, I saw how much this country is changing rapidly, the technology is being embraced by the Guatemalans and it’s going to stay forever. One thing that struck me the most, was the heavy traffic in the city that I don’t recall as being this bad before. Nevertheless, it’s always amusing to watch the chicken buses passing by with their colorful load of all kinds of vegetables that they carry on the roof.

One of the mornings while we were in Tikal, we went up to Temple IV at 4:00 am to watch the sunrise. We could see the Temples I, II, and III and even Temple VI off to the right. It was an amazing experience even though the sun never showed up, but it was very special to watch the jungle wake up. First we heard the howler monkeys with their loud voices calling to each other and then we heard the first bird calls of the day including the Great Currasow  and Laughing Falcon. Yes, that’s their real names.

Tikal

 We also spent a couple nights near the Caribbean side of Guatemala in Livingston. One of the most memorable meals I had while I was there, was a traditional dish of the Garifuna (descendants of the West Africa people) named Tapado which is a seafood stew made with coconut milk. It has every single imaginable edible sea creature that you can think of plus pieces of banana and yuca. Even though the dish was superb, because of the size, I had a hard time finishing my meal.

Tapado

We visited other wonderful places, looking for birds, but I couldn’t wait to get to Antigua and Chichicastenango because I get to spend time looking at the textiles and the woodwork. Chichicastenago has a wonderful array of masks that I’ve been collecting over the years.

Chichicastenango Masks

Chichicastenango Masks

Is fun to watch the locals shopping or selling their wares.

Women in Chichicastenango

Flower Girl in Chichicastenango

Flower seller

Textiles in Chichicastenango

Textiles in Chichicastenango

The market is just alive and fascinating. There is so much color everywhere you look!Mercado de frutas y verduras

 Mercado de frutas y verdurasYou can practically find anything you need. From hand made cigarettes…

Hand Made Cigarrets

To hand made tortillas.

Women Making Tortillas

I was happy to find a couple stalls at the foot of the church’s steps, selling spindles!

Spindles

Of course I bought 15!

Another place that we visited on this trip, is the area around Lago Atitlan. San Juan La Laguna is a town located near the lake. In this town there are a few co-ops where they do demonstrations on natural dyes.

Cotton yarn dyed with natural dyes

Hand Spun Cotton Yarn

This woman here is showing how she spins the cotton.

Woman Spinning Cotton

She also showed us how she prepares her dyes. Here she is grinding Achiote (Anato seeds) that yields a nice orange color.

Woman grinding Achiote

I hope to be able to go back to Guatemala soon. There are still so many places that I would like to visit!

Swing

Patricia

How about more blue to start the year with?

Every time I have a new project I try to learn something new from the process… Or at least I try to teach myself something new. There is always a story behind each piece.

Nuno Felted Coat: Wensleydale Wool, Merino, Uzbekistan Silk, Deer Antler Buttons with Indigo.

Indigo Coat

Indigo Coat with Wensleydale Locks Collar

Indigo Coat with Wensleydale Locks Collar Detail of the buttons Indigo Coat

Patricia

The Mother of the Bride

I had to admit, at some point I felt a little panic during the production of this dress (just a little). I tend to think about too many “what if’s” and I have to remind myself that I will be fine. I was checking my emails a few days ago, and the first email from The Mother of the Bride was on October last year. I met her in December and I agreed to design her a dress for her daughter’s wedding. Talking about a little pressure, right? I worked on it really slow and I took my time before walking to the next step. I guess I take dyeing for granted (since that’s what I generally do almost each week), because when I realized that it was the time to dye the dress, again my “what ifs” started to go around my head again. I don’t have a lot of experience with indigo. My friend Charmaine kindly spent an afternoon with me showing how she prepares her vat. So, I was on my own and I had to dye the dress with Indigo. I took my notes, and started my first indigo vat. So, one cold afternoon, I held my breath and I dipped the white dress in a stinky dark liquid hoping that the magic would do its trick for me… And it did!

The reds from the cochineal turned purple, the yellows from the Osage Orange turned green and the white wool and silk turned blue.

indigo Dress

Indigo Dress indigo Dress

The making of this dress tought me a few things. One of them was feeling ok with using buttons to fasten the garment. And the other lesson I learned is being p-a-t-i-e-n-t!

indigo Dress Back

The dress was modeled by my friend Gina.

Patricia

Cochineal – Grana de Cochinilla – Carmin

Red has been a valued colour in so many cultures. It carries importance since it has been used to symbolize power and gave status only to those that could afford to wear it. Since ancient times it has always been some sort of a quest to find a natural source that yields such colour. Ochers, Iron Oxides and Cinnabar were some of the pigments used to get reds, but technically they are not considered dyes since they don’t chemically bond to the textile. Generally speaking, dyes comes from an organic source, like plants and insects and only a handful of them yield a deep red colour. Madder, Shellfish Purple, Lac and Kermes are some of the examples of those natural dyes used and traded throughout ancient history. In Mexico a scale insect called nocheztli (tuna’s blood) that fed from a cactus, was cultivated in order to get a red dye. Eventually the name was changed to Cochinilla and entire families and countries built businesses and fortunes around it. Their sources and recipes were seriously considered trade secrets and those who gave away valuable information were severely punished with the risk of losing their lives if those secrets were revealed.

“The finest and best dye drug in the world.” – Amy Butler

Collecting Cochineal

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Cochineal Teabags

Cochineal Teabags

Undyed Wool Scarves

 

Wool Scarves

Wool Scarves

Great books to read:

Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield

 

Patricia

More Felting Done

More Felting Done

I made this dress for a window display in Pt. Reyes. The materials and dyes used for this project had to be all locally sourced. It was a lot of fun collecting the materials to create the garment. I tried the dress and I was very surprised that wasn’t itchy at all.

Felted dress

Felted dress close up

Back of dress


I finally finished this dress/coat that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. Since the walnut tree behind my Post Office is about to loose its leaves for the season, I decided to take advantage of it for the last time and harvest a handful of them to print the garment. I love the back, but I’m not so trill about the front. I have to think about something else to spice it up a little. I think that I jumped way too fast and didn’t plan well enough before placing the leaves. I’m already planning another version.

Dress before dyes Bundling the dress Back details Front Felted dress

Patricia

Deep exploration of botanical print class with Irit Dulman

And not only with botanical prints. We also focused on the use of different dyes like Madder, Indigo, Weld and Cochineal to add more depth to the already interesting looking prints that we get from the leaves. The class went really fast and the amount of information was sometimes a bit overwhelming, but it was all reinforced by putting into practice the information given in the classroom. Besides being a wonderful teacher, Irit is very generous with the information she shares with her students. I came back home tired, but eager to start playing with all the new techniques that I learned at Pacific Grove. Here are few of the pictures I took of some of the student projects made in this class.

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Indigo Vat

Indigo Vat

Indigo

Madder

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Irit's class Pacific Grove 2014

Patricia

The unexpected

I have to admit it… I always get a little giddy before opening my bundles.

Eco dyed

Eco dyed bundles

Eco dyed bundles

As I never know what to expect. That sensation of a little bit of a rush before the unfolding.

Eco printing

Eco printing

Eco printing

Eco printing

My next class with Irit Dulman is “just around the corner” as she said. I can’t wait for January to arrive!

Patricia

Making bundles

I did some dyeing this weekend. But first I had to go around my neighborhood to do some “shopping” for the right material.

Eucalyptus

I did found good leaves, but I also saw a men coming out from a driveway with the back of his truck filled with olive branches. I got so excited about trying something a little different from eucalyptus and after he told me to help myself as much as I could.

Olive leaves

Then I found these leaves that looks like a type of acacia. Their leaves are very similar to the olive leaves.

Branches

After I got home I started working on my bundles right away.  I made four bundles and put the whole thing to “cook”.

Bundles

The hardest part was to wait, so I took my camera and I went for a walk.

Bolinas Beach

A few hours later, I decided that it was time to take them out the pot.

Bundles

Here are my bundles before unfolding them.

Here are the results:

Eco prints

Eco prints

Eco prints

Eco prints

The Eucalyptus yielded the most bright colors, the acacia-like leaves, left a nice subtle print and the olives didn’t print at all.

Patricia

Felting with Vilte and Irit Dulman.

I discovered the world of felting several years ago, through the guidance of Polly Stirling, the pioneer of Nuno Felting and I vividly remember the feelings and excitement I had when I first dove into learning a whole new language that wool and silk speaks when they get together. Polly used to come to SF to teach her workshops at the Sewing Workshop, and I was one of the lucky ones that got to sign up for a couple of them on two consecutive years. Both classes were filled with so much information about how to lay the fabric, fibers, and how to get different effects and textures.

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Years have passed ever since, and my felting went into a sort of a halt… until the day that I stumbled upon the work of Vilte and Irit Dulman. When I first saw their work I was taken aback by the beauty and the complexity of their pieces. The textures and layers express an organic rawness that almost look like the pieces are taken from tree barks, waterfalls, sand dunes, etc. They are photographs of nature captured into beautiful garments. I learned that they where offering workshops. Unfortunately for me, the workshops were held in far away places… bummer. But not for too long.

Work by Vilte

Work by Vilte

Going Beyond the Surface

I heard that a new workshop was going to be held here in California. In Monterey to be more exact. I signed up almost immediately and I started gathering my materials for the workshop with lots of excitement. I drove to Monterey with my car filled with smelly raw fibers, boxes packed with all kinds of leaves that I started gathering, since who knows when, bolts of silk, fibers of all sorts, and an unending list of accoutrements… and big expectations. I should have taken a picture of my car. It looked like the car of one of those homeless guys that hung out here in town. With all due respect…

Objects for printing

I won’t go into details about the workshop, but it was a wonderful experience. It was intense and filled with so much information that I’m still slowly processing it, but I came home with a set of new tools that I will be able to apply to my work and renew that first love that I felt for the first time I encountered felting. Irit and Vilte generously shared their knowledge, but furthermore, what they truly do is plant the seeds for more experimenting and exploration, which enhances the  true value of their workshops.

Vilte

Vilte

Irit Dulman

Irit Dulman

Opening bundles

Bundles

Unfolding bundles

Bundling

Eucalyptus printed on silk

Opening bundles

I retured home tired, but happy and with several pieces, some felted, and some pieces of silk dyed with different kinds of leaves, and an immense amount of inspiration that will last me a lifetime.

My dress

Detail

Rose leaf details

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Patricia