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I’ve just finished quite a busy few weeks looking at sustainability.

It began with the Rebecca Early lecture and workshop at Nottingham Trent University.  Becky has been doing a lot of research into sustainability and with a group of lecturers at the Chelsea College of Art and Design set up TEDResearch.  Please take a look at Rebecca’s website and at the TED website which has some interesting and very useful resources and while you’re there don’t forget to sign up for their newsletter!

Last week saw me at NTU again, for the Private view of Akihiko Izukura’s exhibtion, Life in Colours.  Running alongside the exhibition has been a set of four workshops which explore Mr Izukura’s philosophy of natural textiles, Spinning, Reeling, Dyeing and Weaving and Braiding.

The exhibition is a revelation and a profusion of colour!  Who said natural dyeing was boring!   If you’ve in the Nottingham area is really is worth tracking down the exhibition at NTU’s Bonington Gallery, your won’t be disappointed unless you hate colour!  If weaving is your thing, you won’t help being amazed at the skill of his weaving of traditional sashes, Obi, or his skill in braiding which is manipulated to fit the body.

The morning following the Private View I attended a Spinning workshop with Mr Izukura.  It wasn’t what I’d call spinning, but was very interesting, never the less.  We had six silk worm cocoons that had been de-gummed and which contained two silk worms.  These “double” cocoons are not good for reeling as the two silk worms in the one cocoon cause the silk filament to tangle.  We pulled the softened cocoons into rectangles then moulded them over balloons and plastic to form 3D shapes, which were then painted with rice paste to stiffen then when the paste dried.

The afternoon was followed with the Natural Dye workshop, which for me was so wonderfully refreshing and completely different to any natural dyeing that I do.  I chose to dye a silk scarf which had been woven in Mr Izukura’s factory in Kyoto, Japan.  The warp was spun silk and the weft was noil silk and took the dyes beautifully.

I wetted my scarf, pleated it diagonally, forming a small triangle which I then pleated across the triangle and tied with two elastic bands.  I dipped one end in logwood, the other in cochineal, the top of the centre in walnut and the bottom centre in clove.

To fix the dyes I dipped the whole scarf in Camillia Ash water, then dipped the ends in fermented iron water.  This picture really doesn’t do the colours justice.  What was amazing in this workshop was that we didn’t use any heat and the dipped very quickly!

I was back again this week for a Reeling Workshop, where we reeled six cocoons into 3D shapes over balloons and plastic cylinders.  Very similar to the Spinning workshop, but using the filament silk rather than the noil.   We spent the afternoon weaving and braiding naturally dyed paper yarn into an interesting “neck piece”.

My whole practice has been questioned by these events, how can I make my practice more sustainable and how do I take on board Mr Izukura’s philosophy, putting nature before ego and practice!

So much food for thought.