Moths Matter - Bell Armoire feature

The Moth Series scarves have been featured in the Summer issue of Bell Armoire! Get yourself a copy and check out the many many other talented makers featured in this issue!

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Moths Matter    

The Moth series scarves were born out of a curiosity and passion for the exploration of the natural dye process. They also represent an integral part of the manifesto of my work, which reflects a central belief that the earth is a living organism upon which every living entity depends on every other living entity for its survival; a concept of no singular species holding the most importance, humans included. The more familiar a person is with something, the more knowledge they gain of it and the more value they place on it, meaning the more fervently they may fight to protect it. Through my illustrations of non-human organisms — moths, in the case of these scarves — I’m hoping to plant the seeds of familiarity, knowledge, and value for less appreciated species, in order to preserve and strengthen the delicate balance of their ecosystems. We can’t positively identify the complete effects a particular species has on its surroundings until it is no longer there. With that being said, I strive for my concepts and art-making practices to be congruous with one another. Through my dedication to translating my illustrations onto natural fibers by harnessing the powers of plant color, I am able to make sure that my practices are as low-impact as possible. I utilize plants from my immediate area by collecting food scraps, harvesting leaves, flowers, nuts, and berries from the local landscape, and growing plants I know to be good dye material. In order to put less waste into the world, every scrap of material I purchase is used in some way. I am constantly researching materials and techniques to ensure that I am developing work using the most ethical goods and processes with the least amount of environmental impact. I believe that the process is just as important as the concept, which is as important as the final product.

I choose to send my concepts and ideas out into the world via utilitarian objects so they may be used as daily reminders to the user and maybe, hopefully, as a conversation starter. Moths are important pollinators, many for nocturnal bloomers. Artificial lights distract moths and prevent them from pollinating plants that depend on them for reproduction. We can mitigate this by using colored light bulbs, installing outdoor motion sensor lighting, or putting a cloth or a net (maybe a naturally dyed silk Moth scarf) around the light. We can also help the populations of moth species, as well as other important pollinators, by planting local wildflowers in our yards and by continuing the conversation of their importance with our loved ones and community.

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Constructing the Moth Series

I began the Moth series with questions about the science behind natural dyes in mind and techniques I wanted to learn. My primary technique for applying plant color to fabric is through a process called eco-bundling. The plant is placed on wet pre-mordanted fabric, rolled, secured, steamed, and then left to sit for a number of days or weeks. Within this step, I conducted pH balance tests to see how the plant color would be modified in the bundling process. The bundles were then unwrapped and washed. I made a natural dye print paste and used it to screen-print the illustration of moths on each square of silk. The squares were then steamed and washed. At this point, some of the silk squares were deemed finished. I then selected a few to do mordant modification tests, and a few to be batiked and dyed in an organic indigo vat. To finish each silk square, I hand-rolled or hemmed each piece.

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My lovely model, Olivia Rose, is also a wonderful photographer.  Click here to check out her work!

pH test : eco-bundle

Normally, when I eco-bundle, I douse the fabric in vinegar, throw in some flora, roll, secure, steam, and wait. I've gotten some pretty beautiful results in my haphazard way of doing things, but these days I'm becoming more curious about the chemistry and reason behind it all. I've known about pH modifiers since the beginning, but never paid to much attention to it, until recently when I started an indigo vat... results from that later...

Because I had 10 yards of silk to dye for new scarves, I decided to do an experiment with how varying the pH in the bundle might affect the color extracted from the plant materials.

I used 8mm silk habotai: scoured and mordanted with alum + cream of tartar. 

On the Left side of every image you will see results from a pH of around 4 to 5. To get this I diluted white vinegar in tap water. On the Right side of every image you will see results from a pH of around 9 or 10. To get this I diluted soda ash in tap water. Each bundle sat over night and were steamed for about an hour the next day, then left to sit (wrapped in plastic to retain moisture) for six days.  Each piece of fabric was unbundled and left to dry on the line, then steam ironed. I have NOT washed any of the fabric yet, as I want to let them cure for a few days.  

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What I have noticed is that a lower pH achieves a much more crisp and defined print from each plant, EXCEPT from the carrot tops. And all of the colors are a bit warmer when compared to the colors achieved from the higher pH bundles. The higher pH bundles gave greener shades and seemed to allow the color to disperse a bit more into the fabric. 

Here are the results:

carrot tops. dried rose leaves. fresh stinging nettle leaves.

carrot tops. dried rose leaves. fresh stinging nettle leaves.

red onion skins

red onion skins

hibiscus. locally harvested and frozen + dehydrated/dried store bought 

hibiscus. locally harvested and frozen + dehydrated/dried store bought 

dried marigolds (mostly what you see here). dried coreopsis. dried/frozen goldenrod.

dried marigolds (mostly what you see here). dried coreopsis. dried/frozen goldenrod.

yellow onion skins

yellow onion skins

fresh maple leaves

fresh maple leaves

dried eucalyptus leaves

dried eucalyptus leaves

If anything changes after the fabric is washed, I will post an update. I am very eager to have a dialogue about these results, so please comment below if you have any information as to WHY these results have happened and if you have any questions.

UPDATE:
There was only one major change that happened after the wash. The hibiscus fabric changed from vibrant magenta to a dusty purple. 

These pieces of silk still have to be printed on, batiked, and re-dyed as they turn into scarves, so stay tuned! ( and follow me on instagram : jamiebourgeois

I've been in the garden

I planted a dye garden this year, and it is the most glorious thing. 

       storing coreopsis

       storing coreopsis

       avocado pod

       avocado pod

       carrot top babies getting tucked in

       carrot top babies getting tucked in

       carrot stack

       carrot stack

a successful day's work

a successful day's work

        un-bundled: rosemary

        un-bundled: rosemary

Stay tuned for results!

The Lion's Tooth

Kentucky bluegrass is the grass that America has slathered all over itself, deeming any other plant within it a weed. Personally, I am a fan of natural lawns, you know, lawns with an abundance of various kinds of plants. It makes more since to me, especially because many other plants have much more value to the soil they grow in and to the environment around them. Moderation is key, anyhow.

The wildly hated Taraxacum officinale, or the dandelion, is number one on many a lawn owner's list. But it's very unfortunate.

Dandelions are 100% edible. Not only are they edible, but they are extremely beneficial to a consumer's health. They contain vitamins A, C, & K, Calcium, more potassium and iron than spinach, manganese, and more beta-carotene than carrots. The dandelion has been used to help treat fungal infections, bile and liver problems, and is a natural diuretic (maybe that's why I grew up calling them "pee pee flowers?"). There's even research going on about using dandelions for natural rubber production!

And gardeners, listen up, dandelions are actually beneficial next to your plants. Their long taproots help to transfer nutrients to shallower rooted plants, fix nitrogen into the soil, and release ethylene gas, which helps to ripen fruit! I’ve also heard tales of dandelion roots being used as a natural dye...so what’s not to love? Oh, and you haven’t forgot about dandelion wine, have you?

So next time you want to uproot the dandelion in your yard, maybe instead give him a little brush through his mane and thank him, or maybe just toss him on your salad.

PS I recommend doing personal research on dandelions and their properties before consuming, in case of any allergies.

I went on a harvesting walk through the city of Savannah to find plant material to dye my silk material. Luckily it was right after the Holidays and people were throwing out old bouquets and center pieces. To say the least, I found gold mines. Here's some of the process. 

After they steamed I boiled some of the bundles in a bath of red wine, yellow onion skins, and black tea.

And then I wrapped some of them around a rusty iron spike.

Broughton Exchange Pop-up Shop

This holiday season I will have silk scarves, prints, and other handmade items for sale at the Broughton Exhange Pop-up Shop on 18 E. Broughton St. in Savannah, Ga. The shop will be open every weekend until Christmas, with new items added each weekend. 

Paprika Southern wrote a great little blerb about the shop. Check it out, if you can or contact me about what I have in stock for sale. ;)

There are also new products in the works!