Waysides, a collaboration : local colour from our home grounds

March 1, 2015

Thank you for all your wisdom on The Curiousity of Joyless Knitting. Whilst my knitting energy is muted, my mind is bubbling and fermenting…

Welcome to Waysides, a collaboration between Annie Cholewa and myself…finding local colour in our homegrounds. I am so very, very excited about this project that my skin fairly hums with it. You may recall my recent post on my Local Colour project where I wanted to create a range of colours from my local area to express motifs and patterns derived from my habitual environment. But the task seemed a little on the large side and I wasn’t quite sure how to approach it.

IMG_5860Then Annie observed the connections and synchronicities between Local Colour and her Home Ground project in the wilds of Wales and suggested a collaboration. If you have never visited Annie’s blog before, you really must. Her photographs are exquisite and she writes thought provokingly on a wide breadth of topics, particularly on colour and landscape.

Her idea of Home Ground was to source all her dye stuffs within in the ‘square mile’ around her home, a lived rather than literal concept. She wrote,

Y filltir sgwar, literally ‘the square mile’, colloquily ‘home ground’, is a phrase most often used by the Welsh to describe the intimate landscapes of childhood, sites of discovery and naming that one owns through familiarity and that ultimately own you. But adults too have their ‘square miles’, places the particularities and peculiarities of which they come to know well through prolonged close attention. 

When I applied this in a literal way, over a map to see what constituted the square mile around our home, I was struck by how most of my everyday journeys occurred inside. I then considered these habitual ways before determining where the borders of my home ground would be for the purposes of this project. Before talking with Annie, I had not defined what local meant to me. Now I realise that my home ground is enclosed by three roadways and a waterway and we rarely walk outside of it. The workings of habit and time have generated my sense of where my neighbourhood lies. It is an intuitive map created by the action of my feet on the way to the shop to get milk, on the way to the park to play with my children, on the way to visit friends.

IMG_5858We were not quite sure what might happen in this collaboration and that is exciting too. So far, it has been an unexpectedly seamless thing, a small creature nutured into largeness as our ideas intertwined. One person’s thought would be expanded by the other which would then provoke entirely new considerations and insights. Our joint project then, is both Home Ground and Local Colour and yet neither and yet more. It is a creature of momentum and energy that has quite literally created a way forward.

Essentially, Waysides is a mapping project using colour to express the ways or paths we walk and the process by which walking transforms the spatial world into the social world, a world of meanings, symbols and interconnections. We hope to find colours in the variety of leaves, barks and flowers within the waysides of our daily journeys, walks to the shop, walks to meet people, walks to the washing line.

IMG_5850Our places are far apart.

Annie lives between the hills and the sea in an out of the way corner of rural Wales. Her homeground includes hedgerows and lanes, river banks and woods.

I live in the inner north of Melbourne. It is very urban. My wanderings take me along pavements, past street trees and nature strips, playgrounds, bike paths and revegetated creek banks.

We are separated by 148 degrees of longitude and 90 degrees of latitude and by 17,000 km (11,000 miles). These are such different environments, climates and seasonal experiences and it will be fascinating to see how this might be expressed (or not) as our experiment evolves.

IMG_5862Our Waysides collaboration will see us dying a minimum of three different colours each month from natural materials gathered from the ways where we walk and using only water collected from our home ground, that is either rain or river/creek water.  We will dye whatever fibres are to hand, using any dye method. We will use any mordant/modifier experimenting with substances gathered from our local environs such as iron-rich water or rusty nails found in the backyard.

We will post according to our own schedules but will always include a link to the other, so you can see how the journey goes for both of us.

Does this sound exciting to you? I am just beside myself and have been gathering all the materials I will need to engage with this dyeing/wayfaring project in a systematic way. Annie is a natural dye specialist whereas I have mastered onions skins, so I envisage my learning curve may be rather vertical!




Only registered users can comment.

  1. I adore this idea and will be following along with great interest. I live in Spain and I have just started learning to spin… it is spring and I am promised some fleece from a local shepherd… it will be mostly white… we have 7 acres of olive and fig tree and tons of wild flowers and I don’t care if the only colours I get are shades of brown… I have never dyed anything before, it is going to be such an adventure and you are both going to be my guides and teachers … no pressure! Love it Love it Love it!

  2. I am excited for you! It sounds like a fascinating project indeed. I’ll be following along with great interest. I’m just excited you are so excited!!

  3. This is going to be such an exciting adventure!! I look forward to following you and Annie and looking in on your discoveries. Changing seasons will probably bring about amazing colors an dye stuffs.

  4. This is SO exciting!!! (I’m an onion skin dyer, myself!) I’ve been following Annie for quite some time…so anxious to follow along now with both of you on your adventure. I do hope that you all will include specifics….exactly what you are dyeing, what mordants you choose and why. This onion-skin beginner is anxious to learn more!! Best of luck….!!!!

  5. R., This is beautiful, and thank you for introducing me to Annie’s blog. My dad’s origins were Welsh so there’s a special connection to me. Honestly, this project makes me want to propose a similar project with my mother, who lives 5000 km. away. She already does a ton of dyeing, being a traditional rug hooker, and I have done none. She is an amazing gardener so I know she knows about natural dyes. I would be a complete newbie, so I will have to find my angle. I love this idea of collaboration from afar, can you tell. Incidentally, there is a book that might interest you: http://www.brainpickings.org/2013/08/12/on-looking-eleven-walks-with-expert-eyes/ I haven’t read it yet but it’s on my “to read” list and has been for a while. Good luck and enjoy the excitement associated with a new idea!

  6. Dear, Rebecca! It DOES sound exciting to me! And I can almost feel your bubbling excitement through your words. I’ve just read your post about Joyless Knitting. I think you needed something to get out of your comfort zone. And here it is, your new project, new challenge and new knowledge! I am so happy for you. I will follow this journey step by step!

  7. WELL MET Ladies!! I read her blog this morning before yours this going to be FUN for both and an impetus to get your ‘juices’ going!!
    and of course it will be fun for us as onlookers, at least for now.
    Happy foraging!

  8. This is totally awesome in every way, no wonder you’re excited!! It’s going to be wonderful for us onlookers as well. Thank you for introducing us to Annie.

  9. Wow, Rebecca, this is great. I feel like Jane Le Galloudec, and shall be trying to follow you and Annie and see what happens with my local plants. Can’t wait!

  10. Hi Rebecca, lovely to have found your blog via Annie. Looking forward to following your adventures in dyeing (and knitting!). Fabulous stuff! Mel x

  11. I love Annie’s blog and will be looking forward to reading about your project – I can imagine the excitement you both feel about it! Juliex

  12. Looking forward to following this project between the two of you, and especially the insights and discoveries you make as someone who is newer to the world of dyeing.

  13. I have just found you through Annie’s post about your collaboration and am so glad that I have. What a wonderful blog you have here!
    And I will be reading both of your journey’s through your local areas with real interest and hoping that it will inspire me to finally take the leap into natural dyeing myself.

  14. Yes! This sounds super exciting, Rebecca, what a wonderful idea! Can’t wait to see where this experiment leads you and what delights it will yield 🙂 XO

  15. I think this collaboration is going to be a wonderful adventure of discovery, Rebecca! I will be following your progress with interest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.