DYE GARDEN & ECOCREATIVE CLUSTER

at The Rockfield Centre, Oban

Started in 2021, EcoCreative Cluster is a project of The Rockfield Centre, Oban, connecting practitioners and practices focusing on nature-based materials and particularly natural dyeing. Led by textile artist Deborah Gray (@deborah.gray7) and curator Naoko Mabon (@naokomabon). The initial phase of the project was part of the CHARTS Place Makers programme funded by Creative Scotland.

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VIRTUAL ARTIST CONVERSATIONS

A series of on-line conversations with international textile artists, facilitated by Naoko Mabon. Recordings of the conversations can be found at https://www.therockfieldcentre.org.uk/eco-creative-cluster

#1. February 2021 with Deborah Gray, textile artist and EcoCreative Cluster Lead Practitioner, based in Oban
#2. March 2021 with Monica Haddock, weaver and natural dyer at Ardalanish, Isle of Mull
#3. April 2021 with Fernanda Mascarenhas. Ecoprinter based in Sao Paulo, Brazil
#4. May 2021 with Nanako Suzuki, designer, Japan.
#5. June 2021 with Boubacar Doumbia, promoter of Bogolan dyeing technique at Groupe Bogolan Kasobane, Segou, Mali

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CREATING THE DYE GARDEN

From neglected corner to vibrant colour

A small, steeply sloping site in the grounds of The Rockfield Centre was chosen for the dye garden. As COVID lockdown restrictions were in place at the beginning of the year, we were unable to start work on site but a group of volunteers was recruited and met on line to plan the dye garden. A list of dye plants was drawn up and seeds ordered. Continuing restrictions at the start of the seed sowing period led to seeds, pots and compost being distributed so that each volunteer could raise seedlings at home.

By mid-April we were able to start clearing the site of old brambles, roots, rubble and a lot of plastic. We used reclaimed timber to construct terraces of raised beds, concentrating on one side of the site first. At the beginning of June the first beds were filled with a mixture of soil and leafmold, and we installed a rainwater collection system. The first plants were set out shortly afterwards. A relatively dry summer meant that watering was often needed but the plants flourished and we were able to start our first harvest in July. Meanwhile, the Oban Men's Shed lent a hand with the construction of the raised beds on the second half of the site. By August many of the annual dye plants were in full flower, and being harvested every few days kept them producing more flowers.

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DYE PLANTS

Year 1

Calendula, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Tagetes
Biennials:
Woad, Mullein, Hollyhocks, Weld
Perennials:
Dyers' Chamomile, Madder, Tansy, Lady's Bedstraw, Lady's Mantle
Tender perennials (overwinter indoors)
Japanese Indigo, Indigofera

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WORKSHOPS

Year 1

COVID restrictions affected our ability to deliver workshops in 2021, but we ran two successful Tatakizome workshops with a 'Street Flora' theme. Street Flora was inspired by our virtual conversation with Fernanda Mascarenhas who uses the plants which appear spontaneously in the cracks in pavements in the streets of her native Sao Paulo. We wanted to celebrate the unwanted and often un-noticed plants in our streets by using them to make art. Tatakizome is a simple way to transfer the shape and colours of plants onto fabric by hammering. Participants in the first workshop, and some of our virtual conversation artists contributed tatakizome panels which we stitched together to make a large banner. Naoko contributed the calligraphy panel which she made using fabric dyed with avocado pits by Deborah.