Rust Dyeing and Stained by the Past

Last night I was reading through a few blogs that I subscribe to, and ran across reference to rust dyeing. I snagged loads of oxidized bits from my Dad’s shop that might work nicely.

metal bits

Of course I would want to place the items so the images left behind make coded messages.

It is interesting that the techniques mentioned are not all that different from some techniques used to apply patina to metal. One site suggested placing the wet fabric wrapped around metal in a plastic bag. Sounds a bit like fuming to me.

I wonder why I hadn’t thought of using patination techniques as a transfer method. I have rusted metal bits that remained in pieces. They were either rusted first or after they were bound into the piece.

Stained Detail

Detail of a work in progress–Stained by the Past

A few highlights of what I found–

Vinegar is used straight or as a 50/50 with water, bath or in a mist bottle

Contact time can be a day to 5 days. Variables would include the color and type of the fabric used, and the type of rust applied, amount of saturation of fabric. Misted fabric would dry quicker than fabric that has been saturated and placed in a plastic bag or container to keep fabric damp.

Neutralizing the rust process requires saturating the rusted on fabric with a saline solution, and a washing. The saline solution can be as weak as 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water.

On The Natural Dye Notebook I found a technique for making a rust solution that can be applied with a brush to fabric.

Mix a small amount natural rust with water, I generally use one teaspoon rust to one cup liquid, or with soy milk…

Green Willow Studio


Things Change–Grape Salad

When I was a girl we had grape salad on special Sundays. The salad consisted of head lettuce (that would be iceberg), chopped apples and grapes, topped with a mayo sweet and sour dressing.

Tonight I modified a Poppyseed Salad Recipe and realized it is very much like the special salad of my childhood. The salad has lettuce, quartered black grapes, chopped apples, sliced almonds, topped with a poppyseed dressing.

Grape Salad

Why was the grape salad a special salad? Grapes were not commonly found throughout the year in an Ohio village during the 1960s.

Living on the California Central Coast produce is abundant at the Farmers’ Markets and even in the grocery stores. Actually, when I have visited Ohio in the past few years I was pleasantly surprised to find produce looking quite nice. Well, except for the neighborhood market near the village where I spent the first 20 years of my life.

For folks with house bunny companions–it is a good idea to cut grapes into pieces when offering them to your bunnies, and watching the bunnies eat them before leaving the room.

I had a bunny, Baby Cornell who very nearly swallowed a whole grape. Yep, that is very nearly. The grape became lodged in his throat and it wasn’t an experience that I care to repeat. He also had a problem with celery. So, now I always chop celery for my current bunnies. It could have been that Baby Cornell was simply eating too fast, but he changed how I have fed all of the bunnies since.

Yes, I named my bunny Cornell after Joseph Cornell, one of my favorite artists.

Baby Cornell in Garden

Baby Cornell Foraging In Our New Jersey Garden In Progress

Baby Cornell on  Sofa

Baby Cornell Hanging Out On The Sofa In Washington
He was such a beautiful boy and a delight to live with.

The Comfort of Books–A Three Dog Life

Today while I was working on a database I listened to one of the University of Minnesota Bookstore Author Events. It was a talk and reading by Abigail Thomas. The reading was from A Three Dog Life.

The book recounts Abigail’s experience as the spouse of an individual who sustained a traumatic brain injury. It is written with such honesty and humor, I felt like I was sitting with a friend having a discussion over coffee. Or in my case a cup of chocolate.

After listening to Abigail, I ordered a copy for my Mom. The last few years of my Dad’s life were a challenge for her. He had several surgeries, some dementia, and spent his last months in an extended care facility. It occurred to me that Abigail’s journey and words might be of some help to Mom during her grieving process.

This is a photo of my copy of A Three Dog Life. Can you tell how much I loved the book?

A Three Dog Life

Some of the pages are folded at top and bottom, and on both sides. And there are underlined passages as well.

These are a few of my favorite passages–

The past gets swallowed up in the extraordinary circumstances of now. p16

Rich spoke in mysteries. It was as if he were now connected to some vast reservoir of wisdom, available only to those whose brains have been altered, a reservoir unencumbered by personality, quirks, history, habits… p17

I can’t find the place that matches my memory. p27

Dogs are never in a bad mood over something you said at breakfast. Dogs never sniff at the husks of old conversations… p75

I kept forgetting the fact that I actually couldn’t take care of him. My terror obscured the truth: no single person, no two people could have taken care of a man in Rich’s condition. Why then did I feel so ashamed? What standard do we women hold ourselves to? After all these years I can finally say the words I want to live my life without feeling unnatural, selfish, cowardly. p115

I’m employed by a software company that produces projects for “language, learning, and speech,” which includes projects for TBI. My interest in brain injury began when my nephew suffered an injury when he was 18 months old. I had seriously considered a career in art therapy, but after researching it three times during various stages of my life I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. Art should be used for expression not as a diagnostic tool.

Baby Shoes

After my husband’s family cleared out their parents’ house these baby shoes remained, unwanted.

Baby Shoes

I have a difficult time with them because they are leather and the baby shoe syndrome, but there is something about them. I couldn’t leave them, or let them be donated, thrown away.

My husband and his siblings wore them.

Yeah, I still am not good at discarding things.


I enjoy interesting art on coins, stamps, vegetable stickers…

Today I ran across this coin amongst my stuff, but have no recollection where it came from.

Unknown Coin

I found this coin when I was in grad school.

1956 Italian Coin Front
I like that the guy is a metal worker of sorts, but safety should require protective gear.

Very cool that it was minted in 1956.
1956 Italian Coin Back

Also minted in 1956.
1956 Penny

How cool would it be if one of the members of the NY School used this quarter to pay for coffee?
1945 Quarter

There are a variety of eagles on coins. This one seems about to take flight.
1921 Dollar

I received the dollar during a purchase in Marion, Ohio. The idea is to post it on the website and then send it back out into the world. I liked the little bunny and have kept it in my wallet for several years.

Bunny on Dollar

I bound a penny and fired it to 1250ºF thinking that it was copper. I was hoping for a bit of slumping. When I researched the composition of pennies I found that they are primarily zinc. So, not surprising that the coin melted at a lower temperature.
Fired Penny

From the United States Mint site–

The alloy remained 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc until 1982, when the composition was changed to 97.5 percent zinc and 2.5 percent copper (copper-plated zinc).

Penny, Penny…

There is progress, but it is taking so long to complete the project. I haven’t had loads of time for studio work. I was away because of family stuff and I have been working on several app projects. Can only manage a couple of studio hours in the evening.

The blocks are tacked in place and now I am stitching them onto the background. Pretty sure that I will not be happy with the stitching until it is more substantial. Perhaps a knot at every hole–3 on each side, would mean 12 knots for each of the 252 blocks or 3,024 knots.


I haven’t yet decided how I will “age” the piece. Currently leaning toward wax with heat or flame. I do love to torch things. I will need to make some test pieces to see how the materials behave.

There is also the possibility of using asphaltum, which is somewhat consistent with roofing felt and tree wrap. In the past when I used asphaltum I willy-nilly mixed it with shellac and applied it with a brush.

Or sugar. Sugar has been used as a stiffener for crochet work. I gave it a go several years back. Made a cotton open weave vessel.

Sugar Stiffener

6″ x 5.5″ x 6″
1 part water with 2 parts Sugar (I used a raw sugar so it did change the color of the cord)
Heated to dissolve, but didn’t boil. This takes a little time.

Sugar Stiffener Detail

I left the hot sugar in the pot and tossed in the piece to saturate the cord.
Blocked it over a jar covered with foil and placed a piece of plastic under. This is pretty drippy stuff.

The vessel has maintained its form, and has not attracted ants.

See a Penny Blocks Attached…

The blocks have been tacked on. Need to let the piece rest. Then a check to make sure the code is correct
Blocks Attached

I noticed that a couple of the blocks representing dots have the binding vertical rather than horizontal.
Will need to correct that. It is important that the texture of the tree wrap and binding be horizontal for proper alignment with the blocks representing dashes and spacers.

The Comfort of Books

When I packed for my trip home to attend my Dad’s funeral I included Joe Coomer’s book, Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God. I read the book several years back and liked it quite a lot. Coomer writes women who seem familiar, interesting, and some are even artists. It is a pleasure to read descriptions of artists whose creativity isn’t a form of mental illness.

While I was home, I helped pack up my Mom to move her to another state. Going through my parents’ things was an odd experience. I am too sentimental at times, attaching meaning to objects. This passage from Beachcombing rang true for me.

I’d walked into the hospital with dirty hands and knees, holding what I thought was a box of love and memory and hope, and walked out with the same box, a loose collection of yard-sale merchandise.

My Mom left her home of 62 years with four boxes and a few bags of clothes. I have been attempting to lessen my possession responsibility, but again being a mixed media artist it is difficult to give away potential art materials.

My favorite Joe Coomer books–

The Loop

Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God

Pocketful of Names

One Vacant Chair

The Loop has finally become a film, A Bird of the Air. I can’t wait to see it.

An interview with Coomer can be read here.

Memorial Bracelet

My Dad died.

It wasn’t unexpected, yet you never know how you will feel until something is reality.

The night before I flew home for his graveside service I made a memorial bracelet.

I cut a small piece of bamboo, drilled holes in it with my Dad’s old Black and Decker drill, then made some knots.

The pattern of knots on one side represents his date of birth, the other side the date of his death. Years back I read that bamboo has a cultural myth–mourning the death of a father.

Seemed appropriate, understated, personal.

Memorial Bracelet

The morning of his service I took cuttings from his garden to make a spray for his coffin.

At the service I didn’t feel as much of a loss as I did when I spent time in his shop knowing he would never be back.

When I went through his file cabinet I found the English-French Dictionary he used when he was stationed in France during the Korean War. A newspaper clipping was tucked inside. I believe that my need to keep mementos just might have came from my Dad.


I also found letters I had written to him. He even kept the packet of photos describing an investment casting.

Bronze Process

Dad wasn’t one to say how much he cared, his actions showed it.