Botanical Alchemy – ecoprint, plant dyes, itajime and indigo

Ecoprint, itajime and indigo silk scarfFlat crepe silk scarf with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Summer has flown by and though I have neglected to post here recently I have been collecting plant material for dye vats and contact prints, scouring and mordanting )mostly silk), starting and reviving indigo vats, dye baths and bundling, stitching and clamping shibori resists, stitching rolled hems, photo record keeping (trying to keep up), and then selling much of what comes out of all this activity at my local village market.

Here are some of the results of my summer:

Cotinus Cogyggria and black tea scarf

Flat crepe silk scarf with madder, black tea, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis

Ecoprint silk crepe scarf

Silk crepe with madder, rhubarb, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Paul Klee scarf

Silk charmeuse with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, cutch, coreopsis, itajime ( the colours and textures in this one remind of the paintings of Paul Klee)

Summer flowers silk scarf

Flat crepe with onion skins and coreopsis

Itajime, indigo and rhubarb silk scarf

Crepe de Chine with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Silk charmeuse and coreopsis

Silk charmeuse with cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, cutch and black tea

Summer flowers and onion skin scarf

Crepe de Chine with onion skins, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria and rose leaves

Ruffled ecoprint shawl

Crepe de Chine silk shawl, double sided with ruffle – St JohnsWort, goldenrod, indigo, maple leaves, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Pollination – bees, flowers, pollen – my new collection of textile designs

Morgen Bardati - "Pollination"

The first prints from my new series are ‘hot off the press’ as the saying goes, and just in time for the early spring we are having here in the Kootenays. Our bees are already buzzing around outside looking for flowers, pestering me as I get in some early gardening – they buzz in my face inquisitively, as if my activity will miraculously produce some tasty blossoms.

I am a gardener, beekeeper, nature lover and I work with natural dyes. Pollination is such a joyful expression of aliveness in nature and conjures such beautiful imagery for me. I envisioned these images on wearables and at the table on napkins and tablecloths. So far I have produced five new designs and I still have a few more up my sleeve which will be happening over the next few weeks. Here are some of my images, showing the process from drawing to screen prints on small naturally dyed and fiber reactive dyed pieces of cloth.


Morgen Bardati - "pollination"I work first with pencil and then in pen and ink. I like to use an old fashioned ‘dip’ pen and black ink – see image of cherry blossom on the left and same drawing in black just below it.


Morgen Bardati - Cherry blossom - from "Pollination"” Cherry blossoms” – showing pen and ink drawing and first prints on cloth. The middle piece is plant dyed cotton.

Morgen Bardati - "Pollination" - bees and flowers“Honey bee” and small “Cherry blossom with pollen” – pen and ink drawings and screen printed on shibori stitched and hand dyed cotton fabric.


Morgen Bardati - Bees and Flowers form "Pollination"“Cherry blossoms”  printed on hand dyed hemp/cotton and  “Honey bee” printed on hand dyed vintage linen.


Morgen Bardati - "Pollination" print series” Bees in Flowers” have been an ongoing theme for me. This print is quite small and I visualize it on a cloth napkin. The tiny cherry blossom at the bottom right on natural dyed cotton I will be using for a small necklace pendant. it looks beautiful with the larger print – the specks of pollen provide a continuity to the design.


Morgen Bardati - "Pollination"A collage of “Pollination” prints – waiting to be heat set and then made into wearables. Some of these fabrics I have already surface designed with stitched shibori and layers of discharge print. I work on large pieces as well as tiny pieces of textiles with a variety of surface design techniques and hand dyed colours. I then have them handy to print on when I need them.


Morgen Bardati - "Pollination" necklacesThe first finished pieces to come out of this series – “Pollen” necklaces with macro images of lily pollen – layers of hand dyed cloth, hand made hemp silk cords and mother of pearl buttons.

To view items from “Pollination” please visit my Etsy shop here:

or my Facebook page here:



‘Faces in Places’ – Artist in the Classroom project

Faces in Places portraitsCollage of four student self portraits

‘Faces in Places’ is a project I facilitated with young students (ages 5 to 12 years) who are home schoolers of the Arrow Lakes Distributed Learning School. This was an ‘Artist in the Classroom’ project funded by ArtStarts in Schools and the DL school. It was as a weekly class with these young people beginning in October 2014 and culminating with a showing of their work on January 17th and 18th, 2015 at the Hidden Garden Gallery in New Denver.

This was conceived as an artist’s journey through painting, drawing and mask making with an exploration into identity beginning with the self and moving out through family, community, country and global connections, past and present.
I led students through an exploration of drawings and paintings of faces, people, objects and settings which reflect personal and cultural identity. Students were encouraged to look at similarities and diversity in family and neighbours for a sense of place and connection, and to engage with their family in discussions about their own ancestors and family connections. We explored  themes of cultural history and cultural identity by looking at portraits, self-portraits, still life and cultural genres by artists from diverse backgrounds.

Here is some of the art done in this project including descriptions of our processes along the way:

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Drawing expressive faces – monoprints using block printing material

We began on our first day with an introduction to the art of portraiture – we talked about why portraits are made and all the different art medias that can be used to tell the story of a person’s life. We looked at portraits by Van Gogh, Emily Carr, Paul Klee and Picasso. We read from the book ‘Just Like Me’ edited by Harriet Rohmer and on this first day we learned about different skin colours and noticed that the ‘portrait’ colour in our paints did not represent everyone. Artist ‘Daryl Wells’ in this book describes how there is no such thing as a single “flesh” colour. This book contains stories and self-portraits by fourteen artists and the stories and images accompanied many of our classes.

Faces in PlacesFirst self portraits and map of the face.

Next we thought about all the different shapes of faces and together we came up with five. I then showed how to map out the features of the face. Because this class has a very wide age range I don’t spend too much time on technical details but rather an emphasis on the importance of seeing, feeling and responding.

Faces in PlacesSelf portraits in progress by two of the youngest students

We then did self portraits using mirrors and a very simple palette of black, white, “portrait’ colour and a choice of one more colour.

Faces in PlacesDuring next few classes we talked about using objects (or animals) in portraits and what they can say about a person or people in a painting. Students brought in objects from home to draw and eventually include in a self portrait. These were objects that had personal meaning and significance to them. We warmed up by doing self portraits with a mirror and not looking at the paper and then did the same kind of drawing with objects. There was quite a variety of things including a stuffed elephant, a totem pole, an eagle feather with a small toy eagle, a snowboard, a ceramic owl and even a violin.  We learned about lines, edges and contours.

Faces in PlacesSelf portrait with a little duck – see the sketch of mama duck with babies

We looked at a self portrait of Frida Kahlo with her pet monkey. There was lot’s of discussion about her portrait which led to how we can express feelings in art and also how art can help us to say the things that are hard to say in words.

Faces in PlacesSelf portrait with a stuffed elephant begins – see the finished piece top right on the first image of this post.

After a mini lesson in how to draw and paint eyes some students saw their expressive potential in paintings to convey meaning as ‘windows to the soul’.

Faces in PlacesSelf portraits with a violin and a very colourful ceramic owl.

We spent some time experimenting with mixing colours and exploring tints and shades and how they can affect the mood of the portraits. We also learned how to mix different skin colours.

Faces in PlacesThis young artists was inspired by Salvador Dali in his portrait

Faces in PlacesSelf portrait with snowboard

Maskmaking - Faces in PlacesAnother component of our project was mask making which we began by first creating a plaster cast of each student’s face. Some of the students partnered with each other and some had their parents do it for them. Because this is a home school group there are always a few parents present in the class and sometimes younger siblings, which creates a family atmosphere.

Faces in Places - maskPaper pulp clay mask

To prepare for mask making we talked about what masks were for and how they could transform, hide, protect and empower. We looked at a variety of masks I brought in as well as  Aboriginal masks of the Pacific NorthWest Coast, including Coast Salish, Haida and Kwakiutl.  Over the next couple of weeks masks were then cast using paper. Some were done using a paper pulp clay and others used a paper laminate. They were then painted and some had added materials like feathers, twigs and collage paper.

Cat mask - Faces in PlacesCat mask – paper laminate

One student reconstructed his own cast face mask into an ape. Using images of apes, he observed how to change features in his own face to become more apelike by building up areas with papier-mache.

Ape mask - Faces in PlacesApe mask – paper laminate

Face masks - Faces in PlacesPaper pulp clay and laminate face masks

During the last few classes we worked on both masks and paintings which were starting to reflect family, community and environment. We looked at artists like The Group of Seven for Canadian themed portraits and landscapes, and again at paintings of interesting characters by Van Gogh. We told personal stories and how to include them in paintings.

Here are some of the finished paintings from this project:

Family Portrait - Faces in PlacesFamily portrait

Portrait with elephant - Faces in PlacesPortrait with Elephant

Faces in PlacesPortrait combining colour mixing exercise (background) and a remembering exercise (drawing)

Potrait with horse in the sunshinePortrait with horse in the sunshine

Me and my violin - Faces in PlacesPortrait with violin

Faces in PlacesPortrait combining colour mixing exercise (background) and a remembering exercise (drawing) and then worked again on a few weeks later

Portait with snowboard - Faces in PlacesPortrait with ‘cupcake’ snowboard and snowsuit

Eagle portrait - Faces in PlacesPortrait with eagle and family crest necklace

Girl in tree portrait‘My favourite place’ portrait – colour and remembering excercise

Mask and painting - Faces in PlacesMixed media – paper clay mask and painting

Portrait with owlPortrait with Owl

Faces in Places poster_edited-3

Eco Dye Prints and Natural Dyes on Various Silk Fabrics

Diversity is the spice of life – and it is this that sustains my passion for what I do.

Silk crepe ecoprint Morgen BardatiCrepe de chine – with sumac, cotinus, maple, cutch

Since working with natural dyes and contact printing I have discovered more about the wide variety of silk fabrics because silk takes up plant dyes so beautifully. In fact the botanical dyes almost seem to nurture or condition the silk and make it’s lustre even more exquisite. Here are a variety of silks I use and a bit about how each one works for me in the natural dye and eco printing process.

Silk crepe ecoprint Morgen BardatiSilk chiffon – cutch, cotinus, maple

Silk chiffon is a sheer fabric with a crepe-like texture. It has a soft, more matt surface and a beautiful drape. Eco-prints on it have a watercolour quality and colours are slightly subdued compared to other silks.

raw silk shawl

Raw silk or silk noil – cutch, cotinus, maple leaves, coreopsis

Raw silk is made from the short fiber left over from the silk spinning process. It has a gentle drape much like linen, a nubby texture and no lustre. However I like it and use it a lot because it takes up dyes really nicely and eco-prints are clear with possibilities for interesting colours not seen in other silks. (like the blue greens I arrived at in the piece shown above). Another quality of this fabric is that it has a beautiful gentle smell and it reminds me of the silkworms I used to keep as a child growing up in South Africa.

silk charmeuse ecoprint Morgen BardatiSilk charmeuse – madder, maple leaves, cotinus

Silk charmeuse is stunningly luxurious! It has a beautiful buttery lustre and a sensuous drape. I have found that eco-prints can appear almost blurry on this silk and not always consistent, but natural dye colours can be beautifully rich. No doubt about it though, this silk is shimmery shiny and everyone loves it.

stone wash crepe ecoprint Morgen Bardati‘Stone or sand wash ‘ crepe de chine – coreopsis flowers, service berry leaves, logwood, oak leaves

This is a really lovely silk to work with. It has a crepe like texture but more subtle, like suede leather. The lustre is soft, pearly and mysterious and the drape has some weight to it. The detail of prints on this fabric is really amazing – some of the prints that it produces appear photographic.

crepe de chine Morgen BardatiCrepe de chine – with cotinus, maple, coreopsis and maple

I think this is the silk I am drawn to the most – crepe de chine – also shown in my first image in this post. It has a softly textured surface which gently  catches the light. There is a substantial weight to this silk but it drapes gracefully and luxuriously. The lustre of this silk reminds me of the gentle glow of the wax bloom on grapes and plums. I enjoy the detail in the ecoprints on this fabric and the surprising variety in colour, especially it’s affinity for purples and pinks and warm pastels. Prints can sometimes appear like painted watercolour and other times with startling detail.

Ecoprint scarf - Morgen BardatiSilk and wool blend – rose leaves, coreopsis, maple leaves and cotinus

This is the only silk blend I have tried with natural dyes and because it is also a protein fibre scouring and mordanting are the same as the other silks. This soft lightweight fabric has a textured surface which makes for a more watercolour effect in the plant prints. It has a beautiful soft drape and not much shine from the silk, but it has a richness as it catches the light. Sometimes there is a 3D effect of prints on this fabric which is an interesting quality – you can see this in the rose leaves in my photo.

IMG_3173 copySilk habotai – walnut, logwood, lichen, strawberry leaves

Silk habotai, also known as ‘china silk’ is a fabric I have used a lot in the making of my reusable food bags so because I had it around I started working with it first when making eco-prints and natural dye experiments. It is a classic silk fabric with silky shimmer and drape. It can be surprisingly versatile and strong. As you can see in my example above it can be screenprinted with delicate lines that don’t bleed (I have used walnut and logwood here) prints can vary from watery to very clear  – a drier eco-print method can facilitate a clearer print. I use it a lot for accents and ruffles on big shawls as it is very lightweight and economical when you need lot’s of fabric. The image below shows a lighter weight silk habotai with a more watery effect.

silk habotai - Morgen BardatiSilk habotai – madder, iron, cotinus and variety of mixed leaves – not much detail of print but the colours were extracted and blended with each other

Mother of Pearl silk scarfFlat crepe – madder, cotinus, maple leaves, iron

Last but by no means least is this amazing silk fabric. Flat crepe silk has a shimmery shine which is almost luminous. I wrote about this piece in my last post ‘Madder and Mother of Pearl’. The way that the plant colours interact with this silk is sometimes astonishing. They seem to make the fabric glow from within. It actually has a very subtle texture like crepe but the texture has been flattened – hence the term ‘flat crepe’. This silk drapes somewhat like the charmeuse, with a soft buttery coolness.

Some of the silk I would still like to try are pongee, dupioni, silk velvet and one of my favourite blended fabrics which I used a lot with fiber reactive dyes: hemp silk.