On-site at CCA's 'Soil to Studio' plant dye garden (photo by Sasha Duerr)
I was so fortunate to have been invited recently to talk to students in the Textiles program at the California College of the Arts in Oakland. Artist friend and plant dye expert, Sasha Duerr, has helped to cultivate a wonderful campus garden for the study of permacouture and 'soil to studio' practices.
In addition to my talk on ideas related to 'fashioning self and the environment', I decided to unravel a tumbleweed fiber form that I had created in 2006 while on an artist residency at The LAND/an art site in rural New Mexico.
'Tumbleweed 01' created out of recycled textiles, fiber, and vegetation in New Mexico
I viewed this event with the students as an opportunity to shift my creative practice a bit – unwinding quite literally into a more expansive mode while also looking back at a chapter in my life that was very much about preserving materials and the memories of a specific place.
The hand-dyed fibers from the tumbleweed were able to breathe again amidst the lush vegetation and expressive succulents of CCA's community dye garden and surroundings. The students also served as live branches of sorts during the collaborative process.
One of the most striking moments for me during this process was the reliving of the past via simple materials like spun fiber and the dust of place, i.e. the vegetation that had been preserved at the core of the tumbleweed. When released into the light and breezes of Oakland, it was like having my own personal archaeology mix with the vitality of the present.
I was also struck by how the garments and accessories of the students intermingled in interesting ways with the freshly exposed innards and delicate strands of the fiber form.
I am thankful to have shared this experience with Sasha and her students – particularly at a time when the study of textiles (fashion) is essential for understanding how to create more connected models for production, crafting personal identity, as well as the consumption of garments, i.e. the season-to-season demand for goods. It seems as if the 'craft of use' is an act that requires not only a better understanding of self but also the ability to thoughtfully weave in the input of others and the fragile surroundings that support our vast desires.
(*special thanks to Sasha Duerr for the above photos, excluding 'Tumbleweed 01' from NM)