Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm Bored, Therefore it's Time to Change Things!!!

My 'word' for 2014 is Courage, so I'm going to go out on a limb and share where I'm headed for 2015!!!

In the coming weeks I will be making some changes to the Natural Surface Academy and blog.  To be honest, keeping the Natural Surface strictly about natural dyeing is not only boring the hell out of me, but it's also stifling my creativity.

While I do work primarily with natural dyes, I also work with fabric paints, shiva paintstiks, digital printing, discharge dyeing (yes you really can discharge dye natural dyed fabrics), and more. 

Shiva paintstiks and crayon on indigo dyed cotton fabric.

I will be adding video links (YouTube) to some of my adventures that are for Academy Members ONLY! 

My dream is to license my designs, have my own fabric lines, etc., so with this in mind I am changing a few things here at the natural surface and adding in a bit more information, etc., I will be sharing my adventures in creating digital designs, licensing, etc., with Academy Members through our Facebook group. 

My 2014 Goals List that I made to use as my screen saver, I have to admit putting this, my goals list, out there scares the snot out of me but as some of my friends have told me in the past "go big or go home!"  

So here's to going big!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


Stenciling on natural dyed (tea and coffee) fabric using my Black Birds in Tree stencil from StencilGirl Products!!!

I'm using purple and yellow acrylic paints and a stencil brush.

This while waiting for the screen printing supplies to arrive.  The bulb in my thermofax machine died and is no longer available, so on the advice of some trusted artist friends I've purchased Jacquards drawing fluid and filler to make silk screen designs.  The upside to this is I'll have large screens for screen printing natural dyes onto the cloth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why I don't Eco-Dye My Fabric

Why I don’t Eco-Dye Fabric
I do, however, dye, paint, and print, my fabric with natural dyes.

Photo courtesy of the Main Street Cultural District Ames, Iowa.

I participated in a local art walk last Friday and after three hours of questions about my natural dyed scarves, artwork, etc., I am once again reminded as to why I don’t call myself an eco-dyer, for the most part nobody is interested in the craft of eco-dyeing! 
While most people play lip service to protecting the environment, sustainability, fair trade practices, and all things “green” the fact of the matter is when most people found out that I was using tree bark, mushrooms, leaves, bugs, and other stuff to dye my art cloth the response was an overwhelming “that’s nice” or “that’s really cool”.  "That’s nice" is the kiss of death, it's the Mid westerners version of “so what” or “who cares”!

The whole experience solidified in my mind what I already knew, while there are some that are truly concerned about the environment and sustainability, the majority only cares if it saves them a buck or two.  Which leads me back to why I don’t eco-dye my fabric, fibers, and threads, but in fact dye them with Natural Dyes, to me it’s about the process and the relationships I form with other dyer’s, and most importantly with nature that surrounds and inspires me. 

Natural dyed silk scarves.

For me the process is not about immediate gratification, but about discovery, learning, exploring, and most importantly relationships.  Unless a local woodworker gifts me a bag of wood chips from their dust collection system or from their lathe turnings, the wood, barks, and roots I use to create my designs are collected over a period of years, often time’s decades. 

My finished artwork was a hit with everyone with plenty of people telling me they’d love to be able to stitch and sew like I do and do I teach classes?  The evening wasn't a total bust, I got plenty of hits from women of all ages that are interested attending a stitching party; the older women of course were very excited about the wine aspect of said parties. 

Click here to learn more about eClasses, Workshops, and my newest offering Out of the Box Art Parties!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Deconstructed Screen Printing with Natural Dyes and Stencils!

Materials List: 
Silk Screens
Squeegee for Silk Screen
Natural Dye Extracts
Gum Tragacanth Binder
Containers to hold natural dye extracts/binder I used paper cups.
Plastic Spoons
Masking Tape
Fabric or Watercolor Papers

Products Used:

How-to make the Gum Tragacanth Binder Video

I am here today to show you how to use stencils with a silk screen and natural dyes for screen printing.

Mix up Gum Tragacanth with Natural Dye Extracts; see video for specific amounts and mixing instructions.  I made a little card with the names of the extracts I was working with and daubed a bit of the color next to each name, for future projects.

The Natural Dye Extracts blended with the Gum Tragacanth are now ready for printing!

Most silk screens won’t be the same size as your stencil, however, I have an easy fix for this problem.   Measure your screen and your stencil and then block off the required space for your stencil by taping news print to the FRONT of your silk screen.  Then tape your stencil to the front of the screen making sure to overlap the stencil onto the newsprint.

Blocked off silk screen, as seen from the front.

Blocked off silk screen as seen from the back.

Black Birds in Tree Inverse taped to the FRONT of the silk screen.

Place your natural dye binder medium onto the screen, towards the edge, this is known as “the well”.  Using your squeegee pull the medium in a firm manner across the screen, once you have reached the other side, pull the medium back towards yourself, do this several times adding more of the natural dye binder medium if needed until the color on the screen looks even.

Gently lift up the silk screen from your substrate, I used 300# cold press watercolor paper for this sample.

For this sample I used the same stencil and screen to print the image onto cochineal dyed cotton fabric that I had surfaced using my hand and earth pigments and fabric paint.

Printing onto cochineal dyed cotton fabric.

If you wish for your fabric images to be free of bumps, etc., tape the fabric to your surface to keep it from moving, etc., while printing.  I prefer an organic and whimsical look and therefore don’t tape my fabric to my table.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Birds in Tree with Madder Lac

Madder lac natural dye extract screen printed, using deconstructed screen printing techniques with my Birds in Tree Inverse Stencil, onto cochineal dyed cotton fabric.

Birds in Tree Inverse Stencil taped to the front of a traditional silk screen for deconstructed screen printing!  Stay tuned for more on this technique!!!

Learn more about these techniques in my eBook and Video series 
Mark Making with Nature!!! 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Pigment Painted Fabric

Panel One

Panel Two

Panel Three

Earth pigments on silk crepe de chine fabric.  Now to get them ready for stitching!

Monday, April 07, 2014

Deconstructed Screen Printing with Madder Lac Extract

Madder lac screen printed onto compost dyed cotton fabric.

Madder lac screen printed onto indigo mono printed cotton fabrics that was dyed with tannin, learn more in my eBook Mark Making with Nature!

Saturday, April 05, 2014


Larkspur ~ The juice of the crushed petals was used to color quills a beautiful, if not fugitive, blue color.  The roots cooked up with a pinch of iron yields a lovely black.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Natural Dyed Hexagons

Natural, compost (bundle), and rust dyed cotton fabrics.  The dark red was obtained using a Turkey Red recipe.

I started these hexagons using my natural and compost dyed fabrics in March of 2005, the weekend my mother died actually, and found them last night while I was looking for a missing stack of colored papers.  This couldn't of happened at a better time as I am currently working on a new body of work called "Faded Memories: Stitched Stories of the Prairie and Plains" for an upcoming solo show at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa.

This new body of work will encompass both traditional and digital techniques, and to say that I found these hexies made up already would be an understatement! The hexagons are from a pattern known as Grandmother's Garden, which seems rather appropriate for this new body of work!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Copper and Wool

Copper sequins being auditioned atop some natural dyed wool fabric.  I'm working on a major project, more to come as I'm a week behind due to being ill last week.  Stay tuned for the Big Reveal!

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Earth Pigment Painting Live Stream

I will be Live Streaming this evening at 8 pm Central Time (Iowa), join me for chat while I paint fabrics with earth pigments for an upcoming solo show!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Rust Dyed Wool

Rust dyed wool fabric, love the marks on the bottom piece, it's just begging to be hand stitched!

Thursday, January 30, 2014


This is what happens when one does not use heat in the 30 day dye bath, I need to get the temp up to 78F, which is still cold, but warm enough to prevent mold formation. 

I will be adding fish tank heater tomorrow to the dye vat, AFTER I skim off the mold.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Introductory Sale Mark Making with Nature Ends January 31st!!!

Introductory Price 
(Ends January 31st)

Mark Making with Nature Video Series
Own $39.95 or Rent $19.95 

Click here to learn more!!!

Tired of your fabric looking like everyone else's?  In this video series I will teach you how to push the limits using natural dyes and traditional surface design techniques!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

30 Day Cold Dye Pomegranate Vat

Day 1

Day 2 

Tonight's Live Stream

Earth pigments mixed with soy milk binder.

Live Stream Event I will be painting fabrics using earth pigments this evening, and also demo'ing how to use the earth pigments with stencils.  I will be using my own design Black Birds in Trees as well as several other artists designs.  If all goes well I may add some mica flakes to the fabric as well.

I love this Mayan blue pigment! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014