Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mycopigments with Alissa Allen

A few weekends ago, I was able to take a class, Exploring Mushrooms for Dyes with Alissa Allen at the Los Angeles Arboretum. I'm always looking to add to my skill set as someone who works in textiles, and lately I have been fascinated with the process of working with natural dyes.

 I initially came across this workshop on Instagram, and in doing so I was surprised to learn that fungi and lichen could be used as natural dyestuff. I had to find out more, and after taking Alissa's class, I was not disappointed! The spectrum of colors that can be extracted from lichen and fungi is truly amazing.

At the class, we each were able to create and take home a sampling of fungi & lichen dyes on wool, that had not been mordanted, and/or mordanted with alum or iron (first image). We also brought fabric of our own choosing (I brought 2 pieces of silk/wool gauze--as protein based fabrics tend to work better with natural dyes) and submerged them in vats of Dyer's Polypore (Phaeolus schweinitzii) - in one vat we mordanted our fabric in alum, and the other we used iron as a mordant. The alum- mordanted Dyer's Polypore turned out a golden yellow, and the iron-mordanted fabric emerged olive green. Once at home, I overdyed the yellow Polypore silk/wool with a quick dip in indigo using simple shibori techniques (last photo). 

I'm uncertain as to how often I will actually be able to dye with mushrooms in Southern California, as our climate is not naturally conducive to the growth of mushrooms commonly used in dyeing, but I feel Alissa's class was very worthwhile- she possesses a wealth of knowledge, and is a patient instructor. I highly recommend taking a workshop with her if you ever have the chance.