September 21st, 2019 / posted by paularath

“Waimea: Breaking Big,” fiber art on gallery wrap canvas by Paula Rath

As you may have seen in various art shows around Honolulu, I have been doing fiber art canvases with indigo shibori and rust-dyed fabrics of my own creation for several years now. I call these works my “Sand and Sea Series.”

While these materials still make my heart sing, I have been wanting to branch out and use some new stuff to dye my fabrics. Next up: avocados.

We are fortunate to have an avocado tree in our back yard. Jerry planted it there about 25 years ago and it’s quite prolific. Unfortunately, the avocados this year are less than stellar. About two-thirds of the flesh is ok and edible, but the other one-third, nearest the stem, needs to be amputated. During these kitchen operations, I have become quite intrigued with all things avocado.

Then, a few Sundays ago, I read an article in the New York Times about using avocado pits for a dye bath. The story said the result is a range of pinks and reds. Who knew?

So I started collecting the pits and drying them out.

After a week or so, I put the pits in a my dye pot and added water. After boiling for a few minutes, I turned it down and let it steep until it looked like an appealing color. It took about 48 hours. (An added bonus: It doesn’t smell horrible, like so many natural dyes do.)

Avocado dye in process.

As I usually do with a new dye experiment, I began with silks. In my experience, cottons, linens and wool take dye nicely, but silk usually has the best results.

Left to right: silk organza, silk voile (maybe), silk charmeuse.

As you can see, each of the silks took the avocado dye differently. Very differently. Silk organza lapped it up and gave me an ethereal red. The so-called silk voile (from China, which, as we know, isn’t always entirely honest about what it’s selling) was unaffected by the dye, while the silk charmeuse transformed into a subtle and sophisticated pink.

So quite soon my “Sand and Sea” series is going to transform into something a bit more colorfully complex.

Thanks to my friend Linda Ryan, who goes shopping in Japan as if she was just popping into the neighborhood Target, I was able to get my hands on some kakishibu, a Japanese dye made from fermented persimmons. This will offer a new texture, as well and an intriguing palette of reddish browns.

If you would like to see some of my recent work, you can find some in Chinatown at the DAC (Downtown Art Center) Gallery in Chinatown Gateway (corner of Nuuanu Avenue and Hotel Street), on the ground floor. There is easy and inexpensive parking in the building

Paula Rath

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