I am absolutely delighted to have been accepted on a natural dyeing course run by expert dyer Jenny Dean at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, East Sussex. Jenny Dean is renowned in her field, and has written many books on the subject as well as a very informative blog which I have dipped into many times in the past. I have heard that Jenny is very generous in sharing her knowledge and wisdom gained through years of practice, experimentation and experience so I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity. Jenny will be assisted by Ross Belton, who completed the course a few years back and is himself an extremely knowledgeable natural dyer as well as a successful creative artist.
Ditchling is a pretty, idyllic village not too far from Hassocks train station, which is on the Brighton line from London. The museum itself specialises in showcasing the artists and craftspeople who made Ditchling a creative hub in 1920’s such as Eric Gill the typeface designer, Edward Johnston, designer of the London Underground signage and Ethel Mairet, a leading natural dyer. I first came to Ditchling in 2017 to see the exhibition Dyeing Now; Contemporary makers celebrate Ethel Mairet’s legacy. This was an inspiring experience as the range of colours achieved from natural materials was amazing and it seemed they all sat harmoniously together. At the time I remember feeling excited to research further into the potential of botanical colour. Later I was pleased to find out that there was a natural dye course at the museum for which I was able to apply.
The course I am attending runs one Sunday a month from April to September, along with one online session a month. This is a comprehensive course where participants are taught to use dyes from natural materials to dye both animal and vegetable fibres. Topics covered include mordanting techniques, the use of modifiers, printmaking with natural dyes, solar dyeing, contact dyeing as well as how to grow, harvest, prepare and use plants for dyeing. Exciting times – can’t wait to get started.