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Botanical Dyeing Press workshop, Fodder and Farm

workshop attendees at Fodder and Farm

As part of the Love Letters to the Land exhibition at Fodder and Farm I was asked to teach workshops to some journalists and influencers, allowing them to have a go with my heat press and make botanical prints onto paper and fabric.

Here are a small number of the results which I think are amazing, especially as the activity was in-between goat milking and cocktail drinking.

There is more information on the process and mordants etc. that I am using to create these prints in The Studio Club private blog

sweet Cicely botanical print

Rosebay willow herb botanical print

botanical prints on table

Rosebay willow herb flower botanical print

Love Letters to the Land; Gartur Farm

This week I took part in the exhibition "Love Letters to the Land" at Fodder and Farm, Gartur Stitch Farm, Port of Menteith in the middle of Scotland.

I was showing with a couple of other artists whose work is inspired by the land - Eilidh Weir and Celia Ramon.

The exhibition was in an old barn - whitewashed walls with swallows swooping in though the large doors. I give a tour of my pieces in this video and Eilidh can be seen hanging hers in last week's blog post.

Hanging the Love Letters to the Land exhibition at Fodder and Farm

barn at Fodder and Farm

This week I have been hanging my embroideries in a white washed barn, as part of Forth Vallery Art Beat - an Open Studios trail. The barn is part of Gartur Stitch Farm near Port of Menteith in Scotland - an education led regenerative smallholding which is host to Fodder and Farm, an events company specialising in local food, making and community.

It all brought up a lot about whether I am an artist - self trained, working in textiles and with local materials . . . .

In this video I discuss all that and you can see us making decisions about what art works to put where - and get a close up of the amazing quilt making of Eilidh Weir of All that is Braw.

Simple crusty no knead bread

When I began making bread - in my early twenties, living in Glasgow, working in an office job that I was growing out of - I was a champion kneader. I took all my stresses out on that ball of dough.

At the same time my Dad was extolling the virtues of a 'no knead' bread that he made every week - it was bread, technically, but it was bread with the texture of a rock. That probably was one of the reasons that I bought into the idea that to have a light, edible, delicious loaf of bread, you needed to knead.

Then, running my own business, baking bread became something that I fitted into the corners of life and I had to simplify the whole process if I was going to do it at all. My children weren't keen on the heaviness of my Dad's brand of bread, and I gradually developed an alternative, cutting down the kneading, ramping up the amount of liquid.

Four years ago I learned how to make sourdough bread with the amazing Kat Goldin at Gartur Stitch Farm, but as bread is the only thing I bake regularly I keenly felt the waste as I discarded the discard. Then sourdough baking became popular and I found I just couldn't bring myself to do it any more - a BIG personality flaw - and my poor starter languished. However, if you want to learn to bake sourdough bread simply - go see Kat!

What the sourdough did demystify for me however was "the Dutch oven' which I had seem mentioned in so many books - I had assumed that it was a rare and specialist piece of equipment. When it actually turned out to be an old lidded pan that could go in the oven that made everything easier - I already had a couple of those, too chipped for regular cooking, hanging around looking burned and taking up space.

So, when I went back to baking with yeast 2 years ago, I spent time honing my technique until it became simpler and simpler, more and more forgiving - stirring rather than kneading.

Now bread making is a ten minute process in total - with some time for the dough to rise (from 3 to 24 hours) and 50 minutes in the oven.

If you fancy having a go here is a video - the only remotely tricky bit is having the courage to leave the dough really wet which is what makes it light.

You can also get a download of the recipe here.

How to grow sweet peas from seed

growing sweet peas from seed

Sweet peas have always been a plant that grows well here - they love the cool damp summers, the long light days of June - and reward me with bucket upon bucket of blooms. When I had a flower farm and grew organic cut flowers commercially I used to grow thousands of stems for weddings.

If you are growing them yourself, this is the perfect time to sow sweet peas - they have time to grow great healthy roots but don't hang around getting root bound. They are pretty hardy - and though you shouldn't plant them out into the garden until the frosts are pretty much finished, they don't need a heated greenhouse. If you have somewhere sheltered to keep them, tucked by a wall, in a cold frame you can germinate them on the house and then move them outside.

I love pottering around in the greenhouse it this time, sowing sweet pea seeds and looking forward to a Summer full of scented cut flowers. It stops me from sowing other seeds for which it is far too early!

I have recorded a YouTube video showing exactly how I sow sweet peas

Snapdragon social

A few people have asked for a list of the restaurants in Hvar that we loved best. To be honest we didn’t have a single bad meal - the food is beautifully sourced and cooked, informal, seasonal delicious. But there were a few places that were particularly good. 

First if you are flying into Zadar airport and have time to spend in the town then @konobastomoricazadar is worth a visit. The cuttlefish and chickpea soup/stew was the best thing I’ve eaten this year. 

In Hvar itself @konobamenego is a cosy restaurant with a great menu of traditional food, including vegetarian options, we shared a plate of marinated fish (eel I think) and then I had courgettes and aubergines in a sweet and sour sauce prepared to a family recipe. Go early as once they are full that’s  it, there is no squashing in extra sittings, the kitchen staff need time off. I loved this. 

Our nearest town was Stari Grad and we lived @antikastarigrad - tables set outside so we could people watch, great food. Celery and smoked mussel soup with pine nuts 👌🏻

The dog is the photo was snapped at #konobahumac - a deserted hilltop village which featured in last week’s Friday film. There is a small restaurant with a wood fired kitchen - you can either order 24 hours in advance for traditional dishes cooked under a dome or have simple grilled meats and salads. Simplicity is wonderful. 

I’ll continue this in the comments.
Back from holiday, looking a little less frazzled than my pre-holiday photo and I'm trying to keep it like that (which is why Instagram posts are now in the afternoon - I'm reading in the morning).
In this week's Friday film I talk about the difficulty that I've always had in not working while on holiday and why that is a great mistake and what changed this year.
For me getting proper rest is important for living my best life.  It isn't a sneaky productivity trick - I don't want to rest on holiday so that I can work more efficiently when I get home.  I want to rest so that I can feel more alive, stand taller, be more vibrant.
I've also added in a film of the sea, a courtyard garden and a deserted hilltop village to show you why Hvar is one of the best places to go if you need a little relaxation.  The link is in stories.

#hvar #mudridolac #smallbusiness
This is a woman who is about to head off on holiday but has packed absolutely nothing.

Today’s Friday film is out - I’ll post the link in stories - and it’s all about why I’m deleting social media apps while I’m away, what is the kind of ‘work’ that I find revitalising on holiday and what stops me relaxing. And a tour of what I actually do day to day (minus the boring bits). 

Here till 5pm today and then away for a couple of weeks. 

Knitting is #heirloomquiltcardigan by @katrynseeburger
I seem to have spent this year writing about plants that have turned out to not be what they were meant to be . .  but that I have grown to love more than whatever it was I thought I wanted.

There were meant to be Hopi black dye sunflowers, Tceqa' Qu' Si, (Helianthus annuus macrocarpus). They clearly are not.

I've never actually grown giant sunflowers - and these tower over the sweet pea tunnel, gawky, heads bowed.

I love them.  The birds will love them even more.
I'm not really a person who is very good at theory.  I'm not enthused by swatches.  I was never good at experiments in science class.

I mean I appreciate the science in botanical dyeing, and I really, really appreciate the people whose brains work that way, but it just isn't me.

I love the process but even more I love the result.

I think that the most obvious example of this is the ongoing knitted blanket - three stripes from every plant that I try dyeing with in the garden.  A record of sorts. The best I can do.

At the moment a lot of the dyeing and making and embroidering that I do is centered around clothes - bought second hand and made more beautiful. I'm inspired by @prophet_of_bloom and @thedogwooddyer and they way they wear their creativity.

I've bought this silk camisole from Vinted (it was described as vintage but I refuse to believe that the 1990s are vintage). I've now dyed it with fresh indigo for my younger daughter, a mermaid blue, gently mottled teal.

The photos of the process are up on my blog - last night I gave it another coat of leaves so I am now waiting for it to dry to check the colour before I post it to Katie.

#botanicaldye #naturaldyeing #prelovedclothes
In the early summer this rose - nicknamed the
This week's all about managing my energy - I go on holiday in a week and traditionally I've been terrible at pacing myself in the run up to a break.
Everything seems to get out of hand and pile up on my desk, leaving me exhausted and crabby. 
This year I'm determined not to let that happen so I'm building in plenty of the things that I know buoy me up into my days - rest, creativity, nature.
The rest and the making are being combined in making squares for the Heirloom Quilt Cardigan - a wonderful pattern by @katrynseeburger - which I'm knitting in a linen/bamboo yarn that I botanically dyed a couple of years ago and have been hoarding ever since.
You can see what I'm on about in stories . . . .
Often people tell me that they would love to learn to dye with plants but they don't have a garden, or they worry about foraging for plants or that they run out of time and never get around to it.
I completely get that. I am the same.  Life is busy and unless things are easy I often let the desire slide.
It is why I am spending time each day drying out the dye plants that I grow here and packing them up into sealable envelopes - each decorated with a drawing.
I want to make it easier for people to try out botanical dyeing with a wider range of plants than is generally available.  So far I've been packing up willowherb and dahlia flowers alongside the more traditional marigold and dyer's chamomile.
I'm not completely sure what form this will all eventually take - kits that make everything easy perhaps, possibly a 'workshop in a box' kind of thing.  I'm currently trying to work out all the practicalities while prioritising making sure the flowers and leaves are packaged properly so that they won't spoil while I work out the details.
At some point, if you are on my newsletter list, you will no doubt get an email with some questions in it! 
But in the meantime let me know what you think - what would you value in a botanical dyeing kit? Help me make something that will inspire people to create something beautiful.

#dyersofinstagram #botanicaldye #botanicaldyersofinstagram #tagetesdye

About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I help bring the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Find out more about The Studio Club