Everyone has their own pandemic story. The only thing distinctive about mine is that it coincided with my official retirement from a 40-year career in freelance writing — a career that had been languishing anyway, along with the disappearance of the written word.
But really, the demise of a once-robust level of marketing and business communications is what led to the birth and nurturing of Beyond Her. The design and production of all those home and fashion accessories filled my time (and that of anyone in my orbit) for more than 15 years.
So when COVID came and wiped out all the arts markets and retail activity that had kept Her lurching along for all those years, it was the proverbial one-two punch. Fate had spoken: "Darling, your working years are over."
And so, I went back to art school in Spring 2020, tackling the core curriculum that would get me into the meaty classes. Worked up a head of steam, and then . . . COVID shut-down. Completed the courses online and enrolled in a printmaking course in Spring 2021.
I was all giddy-up about the Fall 2021 semester, but then more surges and more surges — the bottom line was I couldn't make myself go back to those long days in a mask. My fine art career would have to wait. So disappointing
My idea became to create things out of all the items that remained in my studio from the Beyond Her Working Years. I had so much fabric, tons of blank inventory, shelves full of arts & craft materials.
I also had a small piece of property in La Grange, Texas, that contained pecan and catalba trees, a fire pit, and a whole countryside of native plants that, I discovered, could be used as dyestuff. It all appealed to my lifelong habits of stalking outdoor environments and my total respect for all things pioneer. And just coincidentally, one of my main diversions during the pandemic was taking free online workshops, most specifically on natural dyes. It all just came together!
Thus began the Beyond Her Space project. The past 20 months have been full of research, online education, scouring and mordanting experiments, hot dye baths, burns and failures in every color, head-scratching results, full-on tears and wonderful discoveries.
My take-away is that the natural dyers' motto of "low and slow" was custom designed to make me gear down and enjoy the journey =)) Others have tried.
I now have an impressive collection of color journals documenting all this activity, creating a detailed historical record. But, truly, every day is a new day when it comes to natural dyes, at least the way I roll.
The Beyond Her Naturals Collection
I have small batches of other natural dye projects, but my main focus for Fall 2021 was working with
My new attitude is that natural dye products are quintessentially quirky, erratic and imperfect. Just like us.
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