In the spirit of chasing lines of enquiring long considered, a few experiments with Madder are taking place at The Outside. Firstly to get an idea of the range of colours which can be produced from a change in pH. Many different shades of red, orange and pink can be produced, all different but all recognisably Madder.
We also hope to soon test other parts of the Madder plant, such as the berries, for their dyeing properties.
The use of woad to tattoo / paint / stain skin has long been disputed. Caeser (The Conquest Of Gaul) recorded: “Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem.” – “All the Britons dye their bodies with woad [or glass] , which produces a blue colour…” Pliny backed him up by saying that the colour resembled “…that of Ethiopians.” But is this really woad?
Woad makes a poor paint as it has to be mixed with something else and tends to flake off flexible skin. It makes a worse tattooing ink!
So here it is, a woad dyed foot. Designs made with beeswax resist, in a similar way to batik. Who knows if anyone was doing this in 50 BC, but it’s certainly something to add to the possibilities!
We shall see how it fades or wears off over the next few hours and days, watch this space! (and these toes…)
UPDATE: The morning after…
No wear overnight and looking bluer in daylight:
UPDATE: Blue feet on the BBC
We’re 2500 years ago, on the banks of the Thames near Reading…
Cut to 16.50 for woad dyeing.
Another delightful week at Salisbury Museum. We have created a new partnerships with Ancient Music, so alongside them, we varied the activities from last year. The schools got to experience a wider range of anient crafts than ever before: Fire-lighting, spear-throwing, natural dyeing, natural paint-making, using quern stones to grind wheat, spinning wool, weaving and experiencing the fantastic Wessex Gallery of the museum. Over the week we worked with 5 classes, both primary schools and a group of college students with special educational needs.
It was an honour to be invited to the last Silchester excavation open days. This Roman and Prehistoric excavation is a fantastic place for us to show some of the textile production techniques available to those people. We brought back the warp-weighted loom which we built for this event last year, and the students were very appreciative of an example of how the archaeology they were finding would have been used. We also modelled our new loom weights on finds from Silchester and Salisbury Museum.
It was very exciting to see the current work being done in a more academic area of experimental archaeology. Meeting people and disscussing a wide variety of practical work was interesting and enlightening.