January 31st, 2015 / posted by paularath
Rust-dyeing fabric

Rust-dyeing fabric with an old chain from George Woollard’s yard.

Jerry and I are hanging a new art show today at the Louis Pohl Gallery on Bethel Street, across from JJ Dolan’s.

Please come to our opening on

First Friday, February 6

6 to 8:30 p.m.

Louis Pohl Gallery, 1142 Bethel Street

We would love to see you there.

Jerry’s theme is “Windows” and he has done some beautiful watercolors and oils of windows in New Mexico, Europe and his imagination. Here are a few:


Watercolor by Jerry Mayfield

Watercolor by Jerry Mayfield


New Mexico adobe with window

New Mexico adobe with window

Mysterious woman in window by Jerry Mayfield.

Mysterious woman in window by Jerry Mayfield.

My newest paintings are created entirely with fabric – there’s no paint on them. I just completed last night (yup – the day before we hang – just a little procrastination) a fun work called “Waimea: Jump!”

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of summer days jumping off the rock at Waimea Bay. Our family had a beach home on Papailoa Road on the North Shore and we would often go to the bay with our friends the Patys and jump off the rock into the ocean over and over and over again. Here’s the painting:

"Waimea: Jump!" by Paula Rath

“Waimea: Jump!” by Paula Rath

People often ask how I create these fabric paintings. I have in the past shared my indigo process with my readers. Today I’ll share the way I get rust on fabrics.

It’s simple, really, but totally organic and therefore completely unpredictable.

First, I seek out rusty detritus from construction sites (with permission, of course) or friends’ back yards. For example,  one day I spotted a huge rusty chain at artist George Woollard’s home in Palolo. He gave it to me! Above, at the top of this blog, you can see that I have wrapped some cotton around the chain and sort of woven it into the chain to try to get the rust to transfer.

Waiting for rust to work the magic.

Waiting for rust to work the magic on an old bar-b-q grill.

I spray the fabric with a mixture of water and white vinegar and try to keep it damp until I get the rust shade I want. Sometimes I spray for days, sometimes it all happens in a matter of hours.

Soem recent rust dyeing that was less than successful.

Some recent rust dyeing that was less than successful.

Often the detritus I use doesn’t really work well as a dye. You can’t tell until you try. Those fabrics just get a smattering of dye, or a very light color. But it’s okay because I use those for the lighter areas of the painting.

A beautiful result!

A beautiful result!

Sometimes I luck out with a perfect, dense piece of rust that gives me a gorgeous color and print.

I’ve been doing this rust- and indigo-dyeing for quite a few years now. I think I’m ready to move on to something else. Other natural dyes – and their deep, mysterious, unpredictable hues – are beckoning.

See you at First Friday!

– Paula Rath


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