Monday, November 24, 2008

Mushrooms for Color

So, I admit. I am sick. I am one of those people who feels like if they say something out loud, then it must be true. Or, if I say something out loud, it will make it true. This rings very loudly with nausea. So, at first, I said that "I am fighting a cold". (Ah ha! this cold is not going to win!) And, then I said "well, I may be coming down with something". (No, I can't really be getting sick. cough. sneezes 30 times). And, now I am here. Sinuses ringing. Slow and lethargic. However, this gives me a bit of time to blog and do some story-telling.

So, on the weekend of my birthday, Marlowe, Kathleen, Sara, Adrienne, and myself went to a 1 day workshop titled Mushrooms for Color, taught by Dorothy Beebee.

I have to admit, the dyeing portion of the workshop I was curious about, the mushroom bit, not so much. This is why. Adrienne has been obsessed with mushrooms over the past year. Every hike that we go on - Adrienne lags sometimes a quarter mile behind, digging in the weeds, under the right so-and-so tree looking for mushrooms. I am ahead yelling for her to get out of the ditch - and to get over here already. Cleo is in between the 2 of us. She won't let one member of the team get lost. The pack must stay together. It does not help that my family totally indulges this obsession by purchasing 3000 page mushroom bibles for Adrienne - which she dives into for endless hours - trying to figure out if this brown blob she has just found - is x or y -- or maybe it's the extremely rare z!! And we will be famous because we have found it!

So, there is the short and dirty version. Now, back to this beautiful afternoon in Berkeley. The workshop was held at the UC botanical garden - which means that you get to walk through this gorgeous garden, which is arranged by continents, and then you get to spend the afternoon dyeing with all of this gorgeousness surrounding you. On this particular day, we were receiving a kind of weather which is truly a gift from above. Low-lying fog with a bit of rain, and the temperature is about 55. The resulting grey sky creates a backdrop for everything of color to just pop. In this case, it would be the plants. Even objects of darker color, the silhouette of such, stands out even more. The rain makes everything shimmer. The weather is warm enough to walk around and take everything in.

Dorothy Beebee has been studying mushrooms alongside Miriam Rice for many, many moons. (Actually, she said that some mushrooms, dye more intensely when picked during a full moon, but that she could not say that in front of a more scientific colleague, for fear of a much larger debate. I thought that it was an interesting concept and was intrigued. Call me ignorant - or better yet a witch!) Anyhow, back to the story, (it's the cold medicine!). Miriam Rice has written Mushrooms for Color, Mushrooms for Dyes, Paper, Pigments, & Micro-Styx, and she has lead many symposiums on using mushroom as dyestuffs. Dorothy Beebee has been Miriam's right hand woman, helping with documentation and doing all of the illustrations for the above mentioned books.

In our workshop, we used:
phaeolus schweinitzii
pisolithus tinctorius
gomphus flucossus
dermocybe phoenicea
dermocybe semi-sanguinea

whoa! Each group broke apart a type of mushroom into little pieces. My group did phaeolus schweinitzii.

Here are some folks mushing the pisolithus tinctorius.

Fresh from the pisolithus tinctorius dyepot:

The final results from the 5 mushrooms:
Can you believe the range of colors?!

So, in the end, I have drunk the kool-aid, and am converted. For the first time ever, I spent my afternoon hike with Adrienne, under an Oak tree hunting for mushrooms. And, you my doves, may have the opportunity to purchase fiber dyed with mushrooms...I don't know about you - but I think it is pretty darn cool. And better yet, for those of you who are in the Bay Area, there just might be a workshop thrown in there.



the Lady said...

Oh, I believe I heard about this workshop - did you meet a woman named Judy? Lots of things are better when the moon's cycle is involved - planting, growing, making medicinal things. I'm not surprised to hear about the mushrooms, that's cool.

Nice foggy photos. It was nice to get the fog those couple days, it's so pretty and I miss it a bit.

I hope you feel better! Get lots of rest!

Liz said...

How fun, sorry I didn't hear about it, would have loved to do that!

evergreenknits said...

That looks fantastic! I'm especially intruigued with the magenta colors.

And how fortuitous to have had the dyeing on such a marvelous, misty day.

Shannon said...

My mother-in-law has been taking some mushroom workshops lately, and the last one explored using mushrooms for dye. I've been hoping to find a resource for finding dye mushrooms in my area...the range of colors is amazing!