The Dyer's Art: Understanding, Creating, and Growing Color
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In this program, students revitalize the age-old tradition of dyeing with plants. In dye labs each quarter, we learn basic dye techniques using kitchen-friendly, natural materials; create a dye sample book; and engage in various research and dye projects. We also engage with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden, observing, caring for, and harvesting plants through the seasons. Since we are creating color through dyeing, we explore color itself in different contexts each quarter.
In fall, in addition to gaining skills dyeing with plants, we gain an Introduction to Color through exposure to scientific understandings of color, including physics of color and light, biology of color perception, and roles of pigment in botany. We also begin to explore color in historical and cultural contexts, discover color mixing in art theory, practice observing and recreating colors in a Color Exploration Journal, and engage with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden in the fall season. For our final project, we create a comprehensive dye sample book.
In winter , we engage in dye labs and examine Color in Place and Culture . This work exposes us to cultural ecology –– the study of cultural relationships with the environment. We explore color in various ecocultural artistic traditions including the Coast Salish of the Pacific Northwest and a strand of our own heritage, which we select and research. We also explore color in our environment through maintaining a Color Exploration Journal and engaging with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden in winter. For our final project, we share what we have learned about our heritage in terms of cultural ecology, art, and color as well as create an item from material we have dyed.
In spring, we focus on Growing Color and Medicine because of the many plants that provide both medicine and dye. We engage in dye labs and medicine-making workshops. We focus on the plants themselves, learning their dye potentials, medicinal attributes, botanical characters, growth requirements, and harvest considerations. We emphasize hands-on engagement with the Longhouse Ethnobotanical Garden to actively interact with plants during spring, and we explore color in the garden through maintaining a Color Exploration Journal. For our culminating final project, we research and share a topic of individual interest and create either an item from materials we have dyed or a relevant teaching/learning experience.
Activities include labs, lectures, films, readings, research, writing, journaling, fieldwork, garden care, seminars, and projects. Students who participate all year will move to an Intermediate/Advanced level of skill in Art Practicum: Natural Dye Techniques and Color Exploration Journal. Other subjects will be introduced at a Foundational/Introductory level each quarter. Students are welcome to join the program in winter and spring quarter.
This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:
Arts, education, botany, natural history, cultural studies, Indigenous studies, health studies, sustainability
Credits per quarter
- Hybrid Online Learning - This offering delivers < 25% of its instruction online, rather than via face-to-face contact between you and your instructors.
$65 each quarter for museum visits, dye lab materials, art and garden workshops, and garden tools
Class Size: 25
25% Reserved for Freshmen
Located in: Olympia