A gift to myself

My husband and I are going to London tomorrow and get to catch up with both of our adult children. We will travel Scotland and Ireland together as a family and then we go on to Italy, so it’s countdown now.

I have been in touch with Monika from red2white blog who does amazing natural dyeing and lives in the Western highlands of Scotland. If we are in the area and she is available it would be great to connect.

I was tidying up my dyeing materials and found a bucket of Eucalyptus cinerea that had been soaking for about 3 months, it was a bit slimy and smelly! I also found a pot of Tupelo leaves soaking and another pot of Tanekaha that had been soaking for about the same time and other random collections of foliage.

So I have given myself a gift for when I return at the end of September and done about 12  bundles to leave soaking.

As all natural dyers know, time is your friend. The longer bundles are left the deeper the colour usually. So now they have an enforced 5 week soaking period and I won’t be here to be tempted to open them!


Some were wound on PVC pipe, some on iron pipe, one on a rusty can – see notjustnat blog of 8 August for her great results.


IMG_1122I also rolled a pre mordanted wool blanket (alum and cream of tartar) with eucalyptus cinerea and have it boiling in a brass preserving pan now. It will probably steam as it does not quite fit in.



I am taking 33  zip lock bags, 33 small oblongs of cloth, two wooden dowel rods and string. I plan to collect treasurers each day and do a bundle a day and microwave them when I have access to one. And no I won’t be taking leaves between countries!!


So that’s it from me for 5 weeks or so.  I’ll have some interesting reports when I return.


Friday at the Park

It was a stunning winters day on Friday, a cool start but the sun shone and actually had some warmth in it.

Looking toward Pirongia

Looking toward Pirongia

The Park has its winter coat on with most of the autumn colour finished but there was still stunning colour around.




The Quarry pond looked dark and still with no sign of the usual fish.

Looking down on the Quarry Pond

Quarry pond

Quarry pond

Remember the fabric I had wrapped around the Kahikatea trunk with Harakeke?

Kahikatea trunk wrapped

Here are the results.


P1200837Wool blanket – front – showing the Harakeke (Flax) strapping marks


Reverse of wool blanket that was against the trunk




The cotton I had buried under the Tanekaha tree mulch for eight weeks had been eaten by presumably worms!!


I am not sure if these fabrics will be coloured after rinsing as there has been no heat. Will keep you posted.

I put a brew on of walnuts that had been soaking for about 4 weeks. They were rather smelly when they came to the boil!! This is a merino scarf that I folded in half lengthwise, inserted Gum leaves and wrapped it around a PVC pipe. I like the string marks but will over dye it as its looking a bit pale.


I had a lovely chat to Irene, a spinner and weaver from Auckland who was visiting the Park for the first time after attending the Creative Fibre exhibition in Cambridge. She has done a lot of wool dyeing over the years for weaving and gave me tips on mordants, recommended several books that I had not heard of, and plants worth growing for dyeing ie Madder and Woad, so will research these.

Unfortunately the Sculpture Park closes its gates to the public after 30th June. This is a huge loss of a great asset to the region. The Trust are investigating alternate funding avenues that hopefully come to fruition.

If you are keen to continue visiting you can arrange to purchase an annual pass for $50 per adult. It will also remain open for events.

My three-month residency has been an invaluable and most enjoyable experience. Being surrounded by nature and art in that stunning environment is good for the soul.  I have learnt a lot about plant dyes and a lot more about trees and plants. I have loved chatting to visitors and exposing them to the beauty and simplicity of natural dyes.

I will continue to visit the Park and look forward to observing many more seasonal changes. There are still many more trees I would like to dye with, particularly our natives.


Yesterday at the park

The wood circle has grown a little and look at how tidy the stacks are behind it, twigs and all. Maybe the owner is an engineer or architect.

wood stack

I had company yesterday. My friend Jude, busy mother, artist and student spent most of the day with me to enjoy some time out in the park.

judeWe wandered the whole park and saw lots of different toadstools.

fungi 5

fungi 4

fungi 3This one was a stunning purpley grey colour and looked very toxic.

fungi 2

fungi 1There was a lot more autumn color including this stunning Tupelo. I see on Wikipedia another name for it is Black Gum so will try a brew of it sometime.


autumn colourWe noticed there were signs of Rhododenrons flowering, usually a spring flowering plant.

rhodoAlso crocuses

crocusand this stunner in the Rock Garden.

bright cactiThere are several resident shags in the ponds, this guy is drying off in the sun.

shagIt was a busy day with visitors to the park, being school holidays. These kids were fascinated by my pots and one boy was keen to put his tee shirt in the bark pot!

kidsI have fresh brews going of Tanekaha, Gum bark and Avocado stones, that have been cut and soaking for a few months, and have left several bundles on sticks in the pots for visitors to explore.

Colour from Nature

I taught a class ‘Colour from Nature’  for children on Earth Day, how appropriate. This was part of the sculpture parks school holiday programme. The class was small but enthusiastic and energetic.

We started with a wander around the ponds and causeway collecting treasures and foliage. The boys loved collecting sticks, feathers and pinecones, with one climbing to the top of a tree to collect a big pine cone!

I had prepared a pot of walnut, eucalyptus and tanekaha.

potsI think they enjoyed the pounding of flowers best of all, probably because there was an instant result.

Leanders poundingsThey were busting to open their bundles after boiling.

Finlay's wool sampleIt was an interesting morning and the boys left with a little insight into how nature can color cloth. Plus they had fun doing something new.

final result

Today at the park


Remember the wood circle at Newstead that I mentioned last week…

Wood pile Newstead

this was it today.

wood stack

It was lovely to see so much more autumn colour at the park, a week makes a big difference at this time of year.


autumn colour

I checked my experiments. There is a tinge of colour showing on the silk from the moss on the Kahikatea trunk, but nothing showing on the cotton or wool yet.

silk on trunkI checked the cloth buried in the pond mud and discovered the most colour was from the flax stick I used. There was a faint fern print on it so that was a bonus.

mud silk

There was cotton on the outside of the silk, so I now realise the silk was not even exposed to the mud!  So I bundled some more silk and buried it in the mud.

mud cotton

I found a fresh deep black coloured Ponga frond and wrapped it with some Habotai silk. We are expecting a wet weekend which will help them along.

ponga wrapped

There were some colourful Toadstools around, but I resisted the temptation to boil them up as am not sure what is poisonous.


The Whenuapai Floral and Garden Circle visited on a bus trip. The showers cleared enough for them to enjoy a walk around the park.

ladiesThere are many quails around the park, they seem to hang out in groups like this.

quailsI am looking forward to taking a class ‘Colour from Nature’ for school kids on Monday. I have a brew of tanekaha, walnut and eucalyptus ready. If you know anyone interested in participating please ring Sybille at the Park on 07 8240928.









Another day in paradise

Had a great start to the day… I featured on the Arts page of the Waikato Times next to Robert Plant this morning.

Waikato Times 110413

Driving out to the Sculpture Park these last few weeks I have noticed the beginnings of a circle of perfectly stacked fire wood at Newstead. So I stopped this morning to really appreciate it. What a work of art.

I was curious to see last weeks results that had been sitting in the pots. Arts Manager and Educator,  Sybille Schlumbom and Owner John Wakeling were keen helpers to unbundle them, then we pegged them to a bush to dry.

hanging in bush

I wrapped a Kahikatea trunk with wet silk, top, cotton, middle and wool blanket, bottom using Flax – Harakeke.  There is smooth lichen on the bark that may leave an imprint, but I imagine it will need moisture.

Kahikatea trunk

Kahikatea trunk

Kahikatea trunk wrapped

Kahikatea trunk wrapped

John showed me the holes in the Houhere – Lacebark trunk made by the Puriri Moths, that Wetas later use to shelter.

Holes in Lacebark

I had a perfect possie for lunch and observed the algae moving across the pond in the breeze.

I put on a pot of Tanekaha (Celery Pine) windfall and green foliage.

Stone bundle and thread - Tanekaha

Stone bundle and thread – Tanekaha

The Museums Aotearoa Conference delegates are visiting the park tomorrow so I left a display of work for them to observe.

I hear that the Whangamata Probus Club visited the Park this week and showed a lot of  interest in my samples and bundles etc.


So another wonderful day in paradise.