A Potter’s Journey

aOver a year ago I met a beautiful and talented artist and student named Annaliese, and this summer she came to work with me in the studio. Since she is an art major, it made for a perfect internship experience watching me run my creative business while learning my medium of flowers. We were able to translate the lessons of art and art business into a lot more than just flowers while we modified the shop for work in ceramics. Soon there was a harmony of aesthetics as she and I drafted vases that were flower specific while working with so many materials in one room. We puzzle-packed and  fired the heck out of the kiln until the day she drove back to her school. I miss her dearly not because I need a helper so much, but because having a fellow artist near you daily for a month who understands things like the flow of diving into a project or the abstract ways that people like us get from A to B (which is never a straight line), or the excitement over the tiniest detail, is a rare and beautiful thing. There is a rise in collaboration with potters/vase makers and floral designers and it was so exciting to have a taste of that magic here at Haute Horticulture. We discussed artists like Frances Palmer who have been making waves by designing such flower specific pieces and their success of being embraced by what was seemingly a tight niche of customers, floral designers, and art lovers alike.

I often reflect on what I taught and what I learned while teaching and working with her. I wonder if it was I who actually got more out of the experience. It is no secret that we will be opening a flower school in the coming year and Annaliese was able to provide me with mindful feedback on my teaching techniques while I shared some of the successes and lessons of selling creativity in today’s world; after all, artists of all people have a product that is often so original it is difficult to market fairly to themselves with appropriate compensation for their time and ideas. Thank goodness there is a turning tide in the art world where emotions or thoughts are made into tangible objects; a renewed craving for the old methods of unique obtainable artwork that is slowly taking hold of the world conscious. Holding a hand made work or decorating with it offers opportunities to connect with the lives of artists and makers and with however one personally responds to the piece. It is a way to support those who take time to put their heart, talent, and dedication into a work for others to cherish; and a way to maintain the legacy of the art and culture of our society. This type of post is long overdue and this article has given me such pleasure to write that I look forward to a series of artist features coming more often on this blog.

The photos below are of her portfolio and a majority of the pieces were made in Japan where Annaliese studied for a year. I cannot take any credit for her magic attention to details or any of the art that flowed from her this summer, but instead for connecting her a little deeper with the nature around my crazy life, some new methods in hand building we practiced together, and my incredible friends like Annabella Brandon who captured her essence so perfectly with a camera (and is available for portfolio, commercial, and business image work). There is no doubt this is the first in many future features about Annaliese Davidson to come in the art community. I am so proud of her emerging style, her tenacity and courage to be herself and travel whenever possible, and her life guided by an extraordinary inner compass which is always pointed to the path of experiences with a humble heart, open mind, and noble purpose.

Annaliese Davidson and her work photographed by Annabella Charles Photography

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Colors from the Earth (Natural Fabric Dye} Part 2

1212Dying fabric with my hands and products derived from the earth was an experience I will not forget. Each new dye product and the color created gave me just a small insight to the methods in use long before dye was mass produced. The turmeric was especially vibrant and so rewarding to use on every material I chose. The day of the flower dye shoot a sweet little moth came up and rested on a Marigold the same orange as its wings. It was a glorious afternoon. I encourage anyone with curiosity on the subject to try something as simple as using the typically discarded water that comes from soaking black beans (the dark blueish water) and boiling or even sun dying any fabric in a jar for a day or several. I actually put the beans in the ground after boiling them and they sprouted immediately and thrived.

The natural products used for dying were:

Coffee, turmeric, paprika, orange Marigold, Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Eyed Susan, blueberry, blackberry, black bean, Chamomile flower, and Stock flower in both magenta and purple.

Some of the fabric colors you see here were created with various mordants to seal in the color.  The mordant combinations were different for each color batch, but were primarily one of either salt, alum, vinegar, and cream of tartar. These are the safer of the mordants and can all be found in the spice section of the grocery store. Some can change the color of the dye significantly. Research is key for selecting the right mordant for the color effect desired.

Photographs By: Annabella Charles

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Dying with Flowers {and other Naturals} Part 1

1In August there was a lot of activity in the studio. Our intern Annaliese brought something magical with her and a large part of that was the fact that to teach, I had to stretch my mind and imagine what it was like to learn something completely new. The atmosphere was alive with ideas and many art mediums colliding. Her love of pottery mixed with my love of botanicals was an explosion of creativity that resulted in spending a week of obsessive study on the art of dying fabric with natural materials. Humans these days are really reaching back out to nature and I must admit that after the extremely satisfying results of a few test recipe batches, I was hooked. I spent every spare minute boiling and sun dying fabrics in jars, big pots, copper basins, and the porch pretty much looked like an alchemists paradise. I talked about it constantly, spent hours online reading natural blogs for recipes and my hands were purple and blue. One night after leaving a bowl of Turmeric outside next to a bowl of blackberry dye, a racoon came and dug through the yellow powder and then the blue water making green stripes on my fabric! After the mania of creating every color I could in less than a week, Annabella Charles brought her camera and the three of us had an incredible 2 day summer session. The results were so perfect in telling the story that it is split into three posts:

1) Dying with Flowers

2) The Colors of Nature

3) A Potter’s Journey

The recipes are not exact. The best way to learn to dye with naturals, flowers, spices, beans, vegetables, and fruits is really in the trial and journal of your methods. It’s a lot of chemistry but the variables are your water source composition, pot metals, nature of the materials, fabrics, and mordants; none of which are going to be exactly the same as what I used in the photos.  I was able to get multiple colors out of a single fruit like blackberry using different pots, heat sources, mordants, and fabrics. The best way to document your dying recipes is in a journal with samples put right into the page. I created a sample journal, but would recommend at least one page per color or dye method. This was incredibly fun! If I weren’t so consumed with flowers in my life I would enjoy the life of some of the premier natural ribbon and fabric dying companies of our time. The one that is on every bouquet these days being Silk and Willow because of their gorgeous natural colors and safe dying methods. Silk and Willow is known to collect Avocado pits from restaurants just to recycle a bit more and make some of the most earthly yet ethereal colors from them. They are worth every penny to wrap that bouquet that makes you want to weep over its beauty, the extra finishing touch with perfect imperfections no factory could manufacture.

The steps to dying are simple once you get the hand of the process.

  • Create the dye by boiling your dye product and water.
  • Strain out any large particles.
  • In a separate pan boil your fabric in water and add the mordant.
  • Boil mordant and fabric for at least and hour and allow to cool.
  • Remove the fabric from the mordant and wring it.
  • Some mordants may need an additional water rinse.
  • Add the fabric to the strained dye and boil for an hour or desired color saturation time.
  • Remove the fabric from the dye, rinse, and air dry.
  • NOTE: Colorfastness is not guaranteed so please don’t wash hand dyed fabrics with other clothing until certain it will not bleed. I typically hand dye items I wash alone such as table cloths or ribbons (for bouquets) that are hand washed only and ironed.
  • Here is a link to a more utilitarian tutorial

This concept and all of the lessons were a complete indulgence in creation. Please enjoy the work of our team and photographs by Annabella Charles Photography!

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{Click here to see Part 2 of this post}

Inspiration Recharge

I was recently fortunate enough to be taken to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (lacma) and it was exactly what I needed to renew my creativity. There was too much to see in a few short hours, but I think any longer would have been overwhelming. I have to thank Sam, Alex, and Paula for the idea and accompaniment on a perfect visit that made the most of a little spare time in such a big city. These are just a few of my favorites (I really do lean toward still life) and photography was allowed unless noted next to each piece; which was awesome! I know I cannot do these works full justice, but I can at least look at them until I travel to see the brush strokes in person. Check out the site and internet images for past exhibits and visitor photos of the wondrous exhibits.

{The photos in order are de Grollier, Van Huysum, and Cezanne – All on display at lacma}

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