Winding down a crazy year with a final studio update.  I thank you for following and look forward to the possibility of seeing you in the new year! K.C.


I’ve been busy with several strands of work since the year began.  Each have, in their own way, been integral to my overall practice.  Some of them will continue to be so.  Here are the highlights:

Natural Dyes. In keeping with my work earlier this year as well as in previous years, I continue my deepening understanding of natural dyes and their applications.  In recent months, I have worked in a more focused way with yellow and brown tannins (Cutch and Pomegrante primarily).  By blending these tannins with Indigo, and shifting them with iron, a surprisingly wide range of surface design possibilities exist.  You can see some of my recent results with Pomegranate rind in my Instagram/FB feed.

Pomegranate Direct Application
Tannin/Indigo/Ferrous Modules
A “Receptive” Vessel In-Progress

Stitching.  The work I have been doing with stitching has proved to be incredibly beneficial as a centering practice, as calming as it is creatively stimulating.  I recently posted on a diptych I created for the 2020 Hambidge Auction.  These stitched works began as modules for a natural dye sampler quilt. As I began to stitch more frequently, I realized that their creation offered space and time for intentional grounding. To that extent, the modules have become elements of a personal time capsule – part of the narrative work that will mark my pandemic experience. As both singularities and parts of a larger composite, they tell me a story of an effort to find some sort of stability in a very unstable, uncertain time. Hand stitching, especially the running stitch, can be deeply spiritual in its repetitive, focused, quiet rhythms.  I have found in “stitch space” a calm refuge – necessary more than ever right now.

Artwork: 3-D.  I have also begun building 3-dimensional “containers” or “vessels” which I am collectively calling “Receptive”.  They are slow-going and emerge when the time is right.  2-D – My work with Black Walnut Hull and other inks continues, as does my work with enhanced monoprints. I will have more to say about these streams of work in the future. 

And finally…Petal-Una Collection.  Petal continues to be a destination for much of the naturally dyed/painted/printed cloth I produce in the studio. While it has been a slow year, I still managed to pull together a diverse collection. The images below include Cutch, iron-modified Cutch, and Indigo-dyed pieces.  I am already brimming with enthusiasm and possibility for the 2021 collection! Visit Petal-Una Collection.

Petal-Una Collection – Part of the Fall 2020 Group

I recently facilitated an Indigo vat workshop at the SEFAA center in Atlanta. The focus was on learning about quick-reduction alternatives. (Fn 1).  Naturally, we were dyeing with indigo as well.  In the workshop we used a simple paste resist, along with traditional Japanese “mechanical” resist techniques, to make marks on our cloth.  I, for one, came home feeling inspired by the spirit of exploration and experimentation shown by the participants.  Lots of interesting results! 

For artists/craftspeople/designers creating in the modern/post-modern reality, Indigo and its related processes offer elements of a studio “meta” practice which can provide a means of merging our deep archaic (pre-rational) and more recent, modern/postmodern (rational) sensibilities.  Taking the time to witness the transformation of Indigo, from a pigment (its leuco “clear” state) to a dye accessible to fiber (its blue state), monitoring a vat on a daily basis and keeping it active – these can be conscious, intentional acts which begin to imbue the simple Indigo dyeing experience with deeper meaning.  It does seems to me that to incorporate Indigo into our textile and fiber practice –  to dye, spin, weave, stitch, print, paint, wear, utilize, admire –  is to infuse our creative cycles with its essence and be invited to surrender to the larger Mystery, if only temporarily.  And that is a very good thing. (Fn 2)

Footnotes:

1. For the uninitiated, indigo manifests its blue color through an oxidative/reductive chemical process which is pretty cool and makes it distinct from other dyestuffs (except those derived from plants closely related to it). I am not a chemist although I am learning. 

2.  I hasten to add that there are many profound and elevated wisdom/spiritual traditions existing around the world – if you follow one of these paths, pursuing any creative process is an adjunct practice with deep historic and cross-cultural roots.

Things have been quite busy in the studio and I realize I have not posted since November of 2018!  (Again, best laid plans – I am beginning to see pattern here (wince)!)  However, after this little update, I have some natural dye reflections I initiated back in March and never got around to publishing, among other things.  As “archaic” as this format sometimes seems, it still has relevance across the spectrum. For me, it serves a real purpose, which I had lost track of for a spell but now reclaim: writing as process-witness.

My practice continues to evolve.  Two full years after a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I never thought I would find myself in a hopeful place around my studio work…but I do again.  I finally found my way back to the heart of the work, to my true flow, and that feels pretty fabulous.  The work begins to look and feel different to me although clearly on the continuum of a process begun so many years ago.  And while I have never been one to rest too long on one technique – I am sure that is my Aries nature – I am still working with cloth and fiber because there is still so much there to explore!     

So, before I resume essay-esque pursuits, I thought I might just provide an update for the record – a brief flashback to the first several months of 2019 as a way of clearing the way for whatever is to come. 

January: Lots of natural dye experimentation – mostly direct application and immersion variations with indigo, madder, tannins and ferrous after-baths.  Began working on my new wearable collection for the April open studio.   I also began experimenting with alternate hand-stitch processes which have now been incorporated into some of my wearable work.  In the midst of the studio experimentation, I was immersed in preparations for a presentation on Sustainable Making at the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance.

February:  I continued working with natural dyes, mostly direct application with gum thickeners, exploring layering of color and assistants in various floating (unregistered) patterns on a wide range of cloth surfaces.  The process of working with natural dyes is much more labor- and time-intensive than working with their synthetic alternatives and because of this, the work feels almost contemplative.  I want to explore this entire complex topic in future posts.  But for now, suffice it to say that natural dye print processes are now a solid part of my studio practice.  Also ever-present now is my organic indigo vat, and I did get around to making some new pieces for a local craft pop-up and the first installment of the 2019 wearables.

March 2019:   My time in March was largely spent preparing for the April open studio, although I did take some time to facilitate an indigo-dyeing mini-workshop at the studio one fortuitously-gorgeous Spring morning.  I also received my copy of The Art and Science of Natural Dyes (yay!) and reflected on my early exposure to natural dyes with Catharine Ellis which work has so thoroughly enriched my current studio practice.

In April – I hosted an open studio and continued to develop more work, including a new collection of totes, as well as naturally dyed cloth, and stitched appliqué detailing.   All of my wearable work is presented under the label Petal-una Collection.  This line has been an active focus of my creative energy since 2012.   If you want to learn more about it and see more looks follow this link.

All of which brings me to the present moment.  I will save that for next time!  Meanwhile for fairly regular and consistent check-ins, I am on Instagram and FB – the links are scattered throughout this website.   If you would prefer to keep up via this blog, that is awesome too!

Thank you for following along.

This journal has revolved around my enriching experiences running a small textile/fiber studio.  Now more than ever I am revived and inspired to continue recording my reflections on those experiences.  After a year of health issues, I have returned to the studio to reunite the many strands of my practice and forge a path forward.  Here’s a recap/update of how things have unfolded/are unfolding so far this year.  My focus until recently has been my wearable work so I will start with it.

I have been spending more technical and production energy on developing fabrics for my micro wearable line, Petal-Una Collection (where you can also find my Petal Insta and FB page links).  Between dips in my indigo vat and direct application (painting and printing) of natural dyes, I am shifting my wearable practice to incorporate cloth enriched with more naturally sourced colorants. I have written in the past about my intention to integrate naturally sourced colorants into my work and to address sustainability in my own studio practice.  As a small textile and fiber workshop, I am arguably already producing a sustainable product but there is always room for improvement.  From examining material sourcing and supply chains,  to energy use, and material waste reduction and reclamation, I continue to look for ways in which I can be more sustainable as an artist/designer-maker.  It is a process.  A major step for me is the embrace of more conscious fabric enrichment practices in my wearable work. About Petal-Una: Every season I produce a ready-to-wear group (as well as commissioned work).  I market my wearable pieces through studio events and, when available, on-line.

Other Work:

Decorative/Interior.  I have focused primarily on felted works in the decorative realm but I am currently developing a new collection of textiles incorporating the technical groundwork I laid while creating cloth for the Petal-Una collection (as noted above).  These decorative works will include a new line of architectural 2-d pieces.  Images will be coming in the next couple of months. In the Atlanta area, his work is exclusively represented by Markay Gallery in Marietta, Georgia.  Links to the Kathy Colt Artisan Insta and FB pages are in the left sidebar on the homepage of this website.

Special Creative Projects/Artwork.  I am also in the process of developing new work pathways in this stream.  Of all of my work subsets, this is the most related to personal excavation, elucidation, and articulation.  Its development marches behind that of its more visible creative siblings but it is still alive and well. I will have more to say about this work in the future.

Teaching.  Finally, looking ahead, I will be reintroducing the teaching component into my studio practice and outreach.  Workshops will resume this Fall (2018).  Information and a calendar will be coming soon and will be announced in the usual locations.

Thanks for reading! 
Late Spring 2018.

So…you have probably noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  Sometimes I question the purpose and relevance of this blog’s existence; sometimes I am just distracted – writing takes time and focus and both are at a premium!  That said, I have committed to resuming and aim for regular posts.  The reason being there is suddenly much to write about again!  First some news: After a post-ACC show break, the paths open before me once again.  I will be participating in this year’s Swan Coach House Summer Invitational, and on the wearable front, a new Petal-Una Collection is in progress and will be available beginning in August.  For sneak peeks at process, works in progress and other images follow me on Instagram (@kathycoltartisan) and/or Facebook.

Meanwhile…back in the studio:

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I am examining many of my textile studio practices (more about this in future posts).  One of the areas I am looking at is dye use.  It has been nearly 2 years since my memorable experience at Arrowmont learning about natural dye processes with Catharine Ellis, and while I continue to use synthetic dyes, I am slowly transitioning to natural colorants for much of my work.  Since that workshop, I have contemplated (among other things) building an Indigo vat spacious enough to accommodate larger pieces of cloth.  Well, I finally made that happen: In March, I started a 70 liter, medium-dark strength vat (images above).  For the uninitiated, Indigo is different from other dyes to the extent that it does not become soluble in water until oxygen is removed from the solutionOnly when the solution is re-oxygenated (i.e., removed from the vat) does the color “develop.”  So the process for accessing the color is a bit more complicated than that for other dyestuffs.  A chemical balance must be struck to achieve reduction in the vat itself and thus actually dye with the Indigo.  There are more or less environmentally-friendly ways to achieve this reduction.  The term “organic” refers to the fact that a balance between plant sugars and an introduced base (in this case, calcium hydroxide) creates the right conditions for reduction.  I should add that those conditions differ depending on whether one is dyeing plant (cellulosic) fibers or animal (protein) fibers.  It is a laborious process getting the vat up and running, but it requires very little input to keep it going.  (A more thorough and concise explanation of the indigo dyeing process can be found in one of the many informative downloadable resources from Maiwa Handprints Ltd.  Thank you Maiwa!)

I say that my indigo vat is relatively low maintenance now, but in its early weeks, particularly while a late winter chill still hung in my basement, things weren’t quite so mellow.  I was admittedly a bit fussy in my care of the vat in the beginning.  However, since those early, tentative weeks, I have learned to relax into a rhythm with it.  Some action on the part of the dyer is crucial to keep the vat humming during active dyeing times, and to keep it “on the ready” during less active times.  Ultimately, we have a little collaboration going: the vat shows me what it needs, via liquor color, “flower” (the foamy bloom on the top), and pH, and I respond accordingly.

More simply put, I am beginning to build a relationship with indigo.  As a dyer, that’s important.  After all, Indigo is a foundational, fundamental dyestuff and color and I want to get to know it well.  At almost two months, I do feel this vat has a definite presence in my life.  I am conscious of its well-being and check on it regularly (although not obsessively); I may feel even a slight twinge of anxiety if I haven’t engaged with it for several days.  If a week has passed, I am always relieved to remove the cover and see it “looking” up at me, its lovely foamy “flower” and coppery film intact.

The earthy-sweet, grassy odor, the “flower”, the maintenance, the process of dipping and oxygenating – these facets of the living vat are all satisfyingly “grounding”….and yet still a bit esoteric.  While my modern human brain (read my left hemisphere) wants to know there is an explainable chemical process at work, and that steps followed yield calculated results, I resist the impulse to micromanage.  I sometimes feel more like a facilitator rather than a control agent.  I am okay with not having a linear, scientific understanding of this process.  I am okay with working in cooperation with the vat.  My understanding and experience of Indigo is of a sensing, feeling nature.  There exists in this vat, and in this process, a fundamental mystery which speaks to the part of my brain still able experience magic and wonder in the world.  That’s something I am happy to welcome into my dye studio!