Oklahoma is derived from the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red. Oklahoma is my home. Tinctoria is Latin, meaning to dye or color things; this is my work.

20 August 2010

Westbound Color

Ghost Ranch, Abiqu, New Mexico, 2010.

We arrived safely home by the grace of good luck by midnight on Friday 13th August. We were greeted by a slap of intense heat, no rain for over six weeks and counting, and our warm fuzzy dog and cat. Here's a small sampling of collected colors along the way. 

Sonoma Coast Beach,
California, 2010.

Madrone Bark,
Oregon, 2010.

Being my first adventure to California, our journey west is a cherished experience. We drove through multiple sections of New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Colorado, arriving back into Oklahoma through the panhandle.

Northern California
Coastal Vegetation, 2010.

Eucalyptus Bark detail, 2010.

We had glimpses and long observations of wild horses, pronghorn, wild burros, fox, bald eagles, harbor seals, and jackrabbits. The spirits of the Redwood Forests have come home with us.

We were fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, hypnotically being pulled in, savoring the smell of the salty air. In Nevada we saw a FULL DOUBLE rainbow after an early morning storm. A few nights were hosted by generous friends. The mornings were chilly, the food delicious.

Wildflowers at Rabbit
Ear's Pass, Colorado, 2010.

Complementary Grass, 2010.

Poison Oak,
Coastal California, 2010.

I filled 37 quart jars with botanicals, most of which will never be found in Oklahoma, but they were of great abundance in their coastal and mountain homes.

Funky Botanics,
San Francisco Botanical
Garden, 2010.

Open Gifts, Northern California, 2010.

11 August 2010

Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, Part VIII

Japanese Indigo, lower garden bed, 2010.

Part VIII: Polygonum Progression

I admit, of all the dye plants I chose to grow for Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, Polygonum tinctorium is the species which I had the least expectations for its survival in Oklahoma. After all, we are a long way from Japan. On the other hand, I assumed Woad, Isatis tinctoria, to be the hands-down no problem plant but it is plagued with the same issues I am having with Weld in the clay loam soil (see ‘Part VII: Weld Rescue’). Luckily I was so confident about Woad’s ability to survive that I planted seed in my sandy loam “wild country garden” and it is happy taking care of itself.

Polygonum tinctorium, early June, 2010.

Polygonum tinctorium, early July, 2010.

So I am very pleased to say that the Japanese Indigo appears to like Oklahoma! It  likes nutritious pH neutral ground and does not seemed bothered by our clay loam soil. The unusual amount of rainfall is most likely working in my favor, but so far it is healthy, growing and abundantly beautiful. The leaves are dark green, rich and lush looking. They are about 28" tall by mid July. The mulch is doing an excellent job of suppressing the darn morning glory vines that come up everywhere.

Indigo Tops, early July, 2010.

Dark and Lush Polygonum Leaves,
mid July, 2010.

Initially there were some mealy bugs, those white suckers, but they were everywhere and not only in my garden but friend’s gardens as well. I  let them be and they sorted out their natural balance.

Mealy bug invasion, 2010.

Possible Leaf Curl, June, 2010.

Grasshopper on first Polygonum Flower,
mid July, 2010

On 11th of July, within days after posting ‘First Flowers’ (see ‘Part VI: First Flowers’) we discovered the first Polygonum tinctorium flower! Tiny little pink flowers just beginning to open. They are very beautiful. The first cutting of the leaves is around the corner.

Close-up of first Polygonum Flower, 2010.

Polygonum tinctorium, 2010.

Polygonum tinctorium, mature plants, 2010.

06 August 2010

The Power of Neutral

Mushroom, 2010.

The power of Neutrals lies in their ability to support color. Without Neutrals we would quickly tire of bright colors. Texture gives Neutrals visual interest. 

Cedar Shingles, 2010.

Circle Rock, Nikiski, Alaska, 2009.

The element for Neutrals is Earth. Neutrals also provide protection such as camouflage or the “safe” color to paint your house. But, a backdrop of Neutrals can dramatically shift the intensity of the other hues in the environment. Then the combinations have potential to be interesting and exciting. 

New Mexico Winter, 2009.

Energyscape #2362,
Cook Inlet, Alaska, 2009.

Neutrals are more often associated with sadness, dreariness, or gloom. They have the power to represent uncertainty like the “gray areas” when we are not clear about what action to take next. Institutional gray holds negative Neutral power and there are many other examples of Neutrals being used to dull one’s environment. They literally suck the life out of more vibrant settings. 

The Aristocrat, Arkansas, 2009.

Yet Neutrals also have the power to bring something to life, giving it context and structure. With the infinite values of brown, gray, white, and black, there are many possibilities for creating an expressive platform of palettes.

Garden Snake, 2010.

Raccoon tracks in sand, Buffalo River, 2010.

descriptive words:
bone, ivory, buff, mushroom, chestnut,  stone, wicker, taupe, khaki, drab, sandstone, soft, classic, creamy, eggshell, beige, earthy, sandy, woodsy, basic, mute.

Whale Bone detail, 2009.

Chicken Coop Door, 2009.

wood,  stoneware, driftwood, fossils, rocks, wool, paper, cashmere, straw, biscuits, nutmeg, spices, seeds, barks, dried leaves, baked bread, grasses, concrete, shells, bones, sponges, oatmeal, grains, garlic, onions, mushrooms.

Homegrown Garlic, 2009.

Homegrown Shiitake, 2009.

restful, dormant, uncomplicated, quiet, rustic or refined, thick, heavy, light, airy, wisdom, soft, classic, durable, enduring quality, mature, practical, warmth or coolness,  stormy, noncommittal, timelessness.

Door with White Trim,
New Mexico, 2009.

01 August 2010

Color Collecting on the Road

Numbered Jars in Wooden Boxes, 2009.

As we prepared for a month long road trip last summer I knew that it would be challenging to continue working while traveling. This is the time for creative collecting, helping to usher in the flow of new ideas and rejuvenate my energy. The camera is always at my side as I collect images of colors, textures, patterns, and other various oddities; I keep excessive notes about ideas ruminating and incubating in my head, but I was still seeking another method for gathering my experiences...

Processed Color Collection, 2009.

Eco Colour, by Australian Artist India Flint, is steeped with a wealth of adventurous methods and ideas; this was the initial inspiration I needed to get my mind out of its box, into jars, and into the VW Camper van for our road trip EAST. My husband knew I was up to something which surely involved loading the VW with MORE STUFF. The jars were quietly loaded, 6 quarts arranged in each wooden box. We traveled through 25 states, drove 5500 miles, and visited 55 people! We collected plant material along the way, documenting numbers, names, places, people, water sources, materials, everything. 

Three Processed Jars, 2009.

Each jar marked a specific experience with place and plants. The spirit of the project unfolded when the jars of collected color were processed in a hot water bath two months after our return.  Jar by jar the colors poured out. Some were quite beautiful, others quite dull. As a whole they are a map of our journey. This method for color collecting has become a routine practice, renewing my appreciation for the serendipity of natural color; it is a process full of delight and wonder and unexpected markings. 

Sorting Jars and Cloth, 2009.

Color Collection was part of the Eye Dazzler’s Exhibit at Convergence 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Then we head west with more jars...

14 July 2010

Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, Part VII

Healthy Weld Plant, 2010.

Part VII:  Weld Rescue

The Weld, Reseda luteola, has been struggling since mid-June. On the 4th of July I executed a Weld Rescue Program and I am keeping my hopes up that the plants will recover in their new home and live successful lives in my wild garden in the country. Maybe I’m dreaming but it was either that or sure death.

Weld in 4" pot, mid-May, 2010.

Weld mulched, lower garden bed, 2010.

Weld likes sandy and rocky soil. At our home the soil is a clay loam. Although I  know better than to go against a plants preferences, I still could not resist trying Weld in this hot Oklahoma clay soil which is rich in nutrients. I chose two different garden beds, one with a little more shade than the other. In 4” pots they looked bright and healthy. After transplanting into the ground they looked healthy and strong. But, by mid-June I began to notice the Weld plants in the lower bed turning yellow, wilting, and dyeing one by one.

Weld from happy to stressed, 2010.

Oklahoma summers are usually very hot, humid, with little rain. This summer the temperatures have barely peaked into the 90’s but the humidity is sweltering and we feel like we live in a fish bowl. It has also rained a considerable amount. Everything is damp. First I attributed the sad looking Weld to too much water and hoped that it would recover after it had a chance to dry out a bit. The problem is that clay soil does not drain quickly like sandy rocky soil drains. And then it just kept raining.

After loosing the entire lower bed, about 18 plants, I decided it was time for an intervention. I was noticing the same symptoms just beginning so I dug up the remaining plants in the upper bed, about 8 total and transplanted them to my “wild country garden”. For me this is my old garden ground, made up of good sandy soil that has been amended with compost and straw over the years and it is full of earthworms.

Weld from top to bottom,

Although Weld does not like to be moved after its taproot has developed, I gently lifted them out of the clay soil, took pictures of the roots, and drove to my “wild country garden”, cleared a garden spot on a semi shaded slope and placed them gently into the sandy rich loam soil. It rained for the next three days, giving them a chance to recover from the move and from their struggle to survive.

Weld in new garden bed,
day of transplant, 2010.

Weld, one week after transplant, 2010.

Weld, lifting up from its center, 2010.

One week later there are two plants that have especially perked up in the middle, lifting themselves up while the larger leaves have died back. I hope that the better drainage from the sandy soil will be better for them and that it will not be so difficult for the tap root to push itself downward, creating a stronger root. 

Wish them luck!

08 July 2010

Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, Part VI

Hopi Dye Sunflower, 2010.

“The first purpose of a garden is to give happiness and repose of mind.”

Part VI: First Flowers

First flowers seem to always have wonder and surprise. They are full of promise and stunning in their complexity.

Tagetes patula bud, 2010.

Tagetes patula flower and bud, 2010.

The first Marigold, Tagetes patula, bloomed at the very end of May. It is now a daily habit to collect the flowers and place them on a drying rack in my  studio.

Calendula bud, 2010.

Calendula plant, 2010.

Calendula is a new plant for me to grow. I only have about a half dozen plants but I am drying the flowers as I pick them. This may be a slow accumulation for natural color but I really like the flowers.

Coreopsis flower and buds, 2010.

Coreopsis grandiflora was quite prolific throughout the Spring. I cut about half of the plant back around the end of May in hopes that it will be able to make another round of flowers. As I collected these Coreopsis flowers I placed them in a plastic bag in the freezer to use later.

Dahlia plant with flowers opening, 2010.

Open Dahlia flower, 2010.

There are only two Dahlia plants that germinated from my mixed Dahlia species (old seed) and they are both yellow. But they seem to be quite happy and they are producing a number of flowers.

Hopi Dye Sunflower, giant bud, 2010.

One Hopi Sunflower, Helianthus, is well over 12’ tall! I  had to stand on the roof to get a view of the top of this flower head. Other Hopi Sunflowers are not quite as far along as this giant. They are such cheery flowers.

Rubia tinctoria flowers and berries 2010.

To my surprise the Rubia tinctoria, Madder, is making flowers and berries during its first year. It is a perennial and appears to be becoming happily established. The flowers are yellow and they are very tiny and some of the berries are starting to form.

Zinnia flower, 2010.

The Zinnias are just starting to open. There should be a mix of colors coming on soon.

Verbascum thaspus flowers, 2010.

The great Mullein, Verbascum thaspus, that I  transplanted into our little porch garden last year, shot up its stock the beginning of May. The little five petaled yellow flowers are sweet. Although I did not plant Mullein as part of the Seed to Skein 2010 Dye Garden Project, it is a favorite garden and dye plant. They are quite abundant in Oklahoma.

Coreopsis tinctoria flowers, 2010.

We discovered a magnificent field of Coreopsis tinctoria just off the highway. I have included these June bloomers because they make a beautiful orangy color and they are an abundant wildflower in Oklahoma.