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Welcome to my art blog from Tasmania, Australia. I post a little on my various art projects while also working in plant genetics. For more, please try the links to my various art pages or email me at silvergumstudio@yahoo.com.au. Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Earth Day eco-dyes

Silk dyed with Tasmanian eucalypts
Yesterday was Earth Day everywhere on the planet.  I went to the March for Science in Hobart.  We didn't actually march, but we showed up to support facts, reason, research, scientific literacy for everyone, funding for science, and the use of scientific evidence to inform political decisions.  We showed up to support using our brains.  We showed up to support thinking and education and objectivity.  These things are not really admired any more.  Still, people showed up in droves, all around the world.  Hallelujah!

While I was at the rally, a scientific experiment was happening in my kitchen.  I wrapped a large piece of silk with some fresh leaves of Eucalyptus morrisbyi, a very rare endemic eucalypt from southern Tasmania, and let it boil in plain water for a couple of hours.  (The leaves were from a planted specimen.)  I wanted to try this species because it is closely related to Eucalyptus cordata, the Tasmanian silver gum.  To my amazement, I learnt recently that Eucalyptus cordata - which is also rare and endemic to southern Tasmania - is renowned globally as a dye plant.  I had no idea of this when I named my blog after it back in 2010.  I've always thought it the most beautiful of eucalypts, but I am a little biased because I did about ten years of genetic research on it, and have seen all of its natural populations, including pure tall stands on cold mountains with shining crowns of silver leaves. 

Eucalyptus morrisbyi print
Turmeric and blackberry dyes
You can see from the top photo that Eucalyptus cordata gives heart-shaped red leaf prints when silk is wrapped around it and boiled in plain water.  Eucalyptus morrisbyi gives much softer, more subtle prints, although with work I may be able to improve this.

I also tried my hand at wrapping fabric in the Japanese shibori method and dyeing with powdered turmeric and wild blackberry.  The turmeric is very easy to use and gives a bright yellow within 20 minutes on cotton muslin.  Blackberry (with a dash of vinegar) is a little more challenging, but the fabric can be soaked in the dye in a glass jar in the sun for a few days to take up the colour.

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