I got together with the very wonderful Claire Crowley and Claire Uttley, two other creative forest school leaders who also wanted to explore this technique. We spent at day at AMC Gardens (where I work a little bit of each week) and used the plants around us there to test lots of ideas out. Once back home we've all continued to experiment - the day together was exactly the impetus we each needed.
Bundle dyeing is a technique lots of people know through the work of the amazing artist India Flint, who creates really beautiful work and has published some very inspirational books, there are quite a lot of people exploring the technique now, partly through a desire to create work that has low impact on the environment, partly as part of a desire to slow down and take a more mindful approach to creating work and also as part of the interest in using the plants around us as a source for creations.
I've been using plants to print with for many years, but mostly by working with printing inks and then layering up plants and papers through the printing press, which does give results I really love. I've been exploring natural dyes for some time, but mostly onto raw sheep's fleece and then using this for felt making (though I'm determined to learn to use a spinning wheel too!). This technique of eco bundle dyeing / printing is one I've been researching and its wonderful to finally feel I've begun my journey with this.
I love working with plants that surround me in different places, its part of forming a deep connection with the land and its definitely something I indent to continue to develop. I grow many plants in my own little wildlife garden that are good for dye stuff and this printing process is like asking them to yield up new secrets!
The actual process is very much about trial and error and also about stopping, slowing down and not needing a quick fix. Taking time to walk and explore and gather the plants is important, some research into which plants are good for dyes is important too (although testing many out will give interesting and surprising results). I'm especially enjoying the results onto paper and it will feed into all the little books I've been making.
The paper and fabric is bundled up tightly and steamed (for at least an hour, but often much longer) and then left to cool before opening (the longer its left, the more the colours "cure"). There's lots of ways of adding mordants and colour modifiers and then also over-dyeing and re-dyeing etc, so its all very much about testing and experimenting and then recording results - its that wonderful cross over between art and science.
I'm just off to gather more leaves!