Monday, May 24, 2010

Re-igniting the Creative Spark

Repair • Hand dyed fabric • 10" x 8" • ©2009 Jennifer Libby Fay

A few years ago, hmm, maybe more than a few, it's difficult to keep track, I decided I wanted to do some more handweaving. I took a break from weaving for about 5 years when my work as a product designer gave me lots of chances for travel and adventure. Things were settling down though, so I thought I would get back into it. A workshop at the Mendocino Art Center was just the ticket, I thought, and wouldn't it be fun if I enlisted my friends in this endeavor? I asked fellow textile artists and good friends Dotti and Joanne if they had any interest. Sure enough there was a fabric dyeing class scheduled for the same week as the weaving class. We signed up, booked the bed and breakfast, got the supplies together, and a couple of weeks before we were scheduled to leave—the weaving class was cancelled. Since I had marked out the time and paid for the room I decided, what the heck?, I'll just take the same class as Dotti and Joanne. I'll never use it, I said to myself. I hate dyeing. All those heavy pots of boiling water. No siree, not for me.

From left to right: Me, Dotti and Joanne in Dotti's studio

Well this type of fabric dyeing wasn't like any other I had tried and after a couple of days I knew something BIG was happening. The technique of dyeing on synthetic fabrics with disperse dyes was, for me, a perfect combination of my love of fabric and my training in graphics and fine art. It involved painting, composition, marbling, and drawing. I could sew or not sew. AND the dyes must be set with heat, but you use a heat press—no boiling water!…I loved it. Dotti and Joanne and I went in together on a heat press and dyes. Dotti graciously offered to keep the press in her studio and let me use it. She ended up sharing her studio with me and I know that that act of kindness is as important to my journey an artist as all the workshops in the world. Having a place to work and an encouraging and knowledgeable person to talk to is priceless to an emerging artist. I am forever grateful to her.

Dotti Day's studio • San Rafael, California

So the years went by and life brought me to Northwest Arkansas where I have my own studio at the Fayetteville Underground. My room looks very similar to the one I shared with Dotti and I often wish she was at the other end of the table to talk to…this week I am in California and I get to visit Dotti in her studio tomorrow. I am very excited to see what she has been working on—and I'm pretty sure we will make some art together.

My teachers, Jason Pollen and Lisa Grey are giving a workshop this summer on marbling on synthetic fabrics with disperse dyes. If you are interested the info is here (scroll down to Re-igniting the Creative Spark) and Lisa has written about it on her blog here.


  1. how exciting and wonderful to hear about your roots and your return to Dottie's studio. The fabric techniques sound perfect for painters who want to work with dyes.

    Have fun making art and visiting with your dear friend...what a perfect day!

  2. Jennifer--you're in California--Great! If you are ever near San Francisco, let me know and we could meet up and share art. I live about one and a half hours from the Bay Area in Davis.

    Your story of coming into the fabric dyeing class is delightful. I always felt the same way about dyes--ungainly pots of boiling water and lots of mess! I'm glad you found a way around it which allows for a more painterly approach. I very much like your piece: "Repair."

  3. Dear Hannah, I am glad I am not the only one who feels that way. I always feel a little inadequate when I confess it.
    I am about an hour north of SF on the coast (but leave soon) so we can definitely get together when I come back in July!