Land & People | Exhibition

Plant Portraits: Alder, Goldenrod, Sumac

Frances Dorsey


I am interested in both weaving and dyeing. Integrating woven structure with dye chemistry in such a way that the combination is greater than the sum of the parts is both fascinating and conflicting. Weaving is slow and particular; dyeing can be recklessly fast and uncontrollable. Plant (and occasional bug) based colour is challenging with linen. Using plants that are harvested close to home, supplemented by purchased natural dyes, presents limitations.

Now questions about early plant and animal beings, the architecture of plants, fungi, arise. Drawing, weaving, 3D, deploying local clay/soil become tools for evoking signifiers of life’s beginnings. The vulnerable, layered, multiple lives and functions around us and beneath our feet are too complex to grasp. But the attempt offers an imaginary world of shapes, forms and colours, and narratives that might be articulated by combining processes that evoke a similar if more elementary kind of complexity.

Three pieces from a series of jacquard weavings, using bleached and natural linen weft and warp. Linen warp was pre-mordanted in weak Fe and then after weaving, warp and weft were selectively mordanted with Al and dyed in the dyebath made from the named plants. Goldenrod portrait was dipped in locally grown woad. Portraits are based on notable dye plants from my neighbourhood, as a record of a locale at a particular moment. Each piece is about 66cm x 66cm; series of 8 pieces was produced in 2018 and 2019.